There’s a report circulating that Donald Trump’s State of the Union speech Tuesday night will include a plan to end the HIV epidemic by 2030 — but to LGBTQ activists, Trump’s record on the disease will make any promises about addressing it ring hollow.
While the speech remains a work in progress, Trump is expected to announce an effort to “target the U.S. communities with the most HIV infections and work to reduce transmissions by 2030,” Politico reports, citing “four individuals with knowledge of the planned remarks.”
Alex Azar, the secretary of Health and Human Services, and Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, have endorsed the plan, sources told Politico. Administration officials, however, wouldn’t comment on the record about it.
But the Trump administration has already compiled a poor record on HIV. “If this administration wants to combat the spread of HIV, they need to immediately end their efforts to cut Medicaid funding, undermine the Affordable Care Act and license discrimination against the most at-risk communities when they seek healthcare,” said David Stacy, the Human Rights Campaign’s director of government affairs, in a press release. “This administration simply cannot achieve this goal while, at the same time, charging forward with attacks on health care for the communities most impacted by HIV. The American public deserves a real commitment from their government to end the HIV epidemic.”
“In 2017, the Trump-Pence White House proposed a federal budget that would have slashed $1.1 billion in funding for international HIV-prevention programs,” the HRC release notes. “This was slammed by experts, who claimed it would lead to political instability and entirely reverse the gains made against the disease in the past decade. The same budget proposal called for a repeal of Obamacare that included deep cuts to Medicaid and defunding Planned Parenthood for a year, despite the sobering reality that 40 percent of Americans with HIV depend on Medicaid to pay their medical bills.”
The HRC release also mentions that Vice President Mike Pence has called condoms “very, very poor protection against sexually transmitted diseases” and said that if Planned Parenthood wanted to provide HIV testing services, it should stop providing abortions. HRC also points out that the Trump administration favors allowing health care providers to discriminate against patients who offend their religious beliefs, even if that jeopardizes lifesaving care.
Further, in June 2017 six members of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS resigned, saying Trump simply didn’t care about fighting the disease, and a few months later he fired the remaining 16 members without explanation. The administration has discharged military members with HIV when there is no medical reason to do so, and both Trump and Pence have failed to mention the LGBTQ population in World AIDS Day observances, even though gay and bisexual men and transgender women are at high risk for infection. And the administration’s current nominee for attorney general, William Barr, oversaw detention of HIV-positive immigrants at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, when he held that position in the early 1990s under President George H.W. Bush.
GLAAD was likewise underwhelmed by the news of a possible Trump plan to end the epidemic. “Unfortunately, President Trump’s announcement has already been undermined by his own Administration’s record and rhetoric, and there is no reason for LGBTQ Americans or anyone else to see this as anything more than empty rhetoric designed to distract from what’s really happening behind the scenes every day,” said a statement released by Sarah Kate Ellis, president and CEO of GLAAD.