In the United States, bisexual and gay men are the people most likely to be affected by HIV. In 2017, they accounted for more than two-thirds of the country’s new HIV diagnoses. Trans people are also especially vulnerable: And in 2019, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated that 44 percent of Black trans women have HIV.
But you’d never know it from President Donald Trump’s World AIDS Day proclamations.
On Wednesday, for the third year in a row, Trump did not mention LGBTQ people in his annual proclamation in honor of Sunday's World AIDS Day.
Even as Trump promoted his administration’s “unprecedented initiative” to eliminate at least 90 percent of new HIV infections in the United States within 10 years, he omitted any acknowledgment of the populations affected by HIV.
Advocates expressed their displeasure with the dodge.
“Another year, another empty World AIDS Day proclamation from Donald Trump," said Human Rights Campaign President Alphonso David in a statement. “This administration's ongoing refusal to even acknowledge the communities most impacted by the HIV epidemic reinforces just how hollow their words continue to be.”
David noted that a few days ago, Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr., made a stigmatizing joke on Twitter about people with HIV.
“The only way for this administration to treat and combat the spread of HIV is to stop their constant assault on the rights of LGBTQ people, end their war on Americans' health care and fully fund domestic HIV initiatives,” David said.
First Lady Melania Trump took to Twitter to also honor the day that is erasing LGBTQ people within its history. Her tweets were met with immediate critique by many users.
— Melania Trump (@FLOTUS) December 1, 2019
The Washington Blade pointed out that Trump’s statement stands in contrast to President Barack Obama’s.
“By promoting his administration’s plan to beat HIV/AIDS without enumerating the groups most affected by the epidemic, Trump declines to recognize HIV/AIDS as a social justice issue and not just a disease,” wrote the Washington Blade.
Instead, the president concentrated on location. “Through this initiative, we will continue to lead the charge in applying the latest science to better diagnose, treat, care for, and save the lives of individuals living with HIV by focusing on the cities and States most impacted by the disease,” Trump wrote.
About 1.1 million people in the United States have HIV. The country’s rates are highest in the South, according to the CDC, and lowest in the Midwest. Overall, the majority of those who receive an HIV diagnosis live in urban areas.
Researchers have also pointed out that the administration’s attempts to gut health care across the board undercut its supposed resolve to fight HIV.
“I find that a higher number of Planned Parenthood clinics per capita is associated with dramatically lower rates of teen births and STIs—specifically HIV diagnoses. This makes it all the more striking that in the name of “protecting life,” [Vice President Mike] Pence and the broader Trump administration have remained so fervently committed to reducing if not eliminating government support for Planned Parenthood,” wrote Miranda Yaver in February for Rewire.News.
“The Trump administration likewise has advocated for Affordable Care Act (ACA) repeal legislation that would reduce coverage and increase costs for millions of people including those with preexisting conditions such as HIV. The Congressional Budget Office projected that the Republicans’ legislation would result in dramatic cuts to Medicaid, the largest single source of health coverage for those living with HIV in the United States,” Yaver continued.
Although Trump asked Congress to increase funds to fight HIV by $300 million, he also cut requests for international programs targeting the disease, including through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), as the Washington Blade reported.
38 million people have HIV globally.
Still, Trump vowed, “On World AIDS Day, we are reminded that no challenge can defeat the unyielding American spirit.”