“Bringing down the rate of HIV infection is one of the United States’ great public health triumphs of the past quarter-century,” wrote Keith Humphreys, who served as senior policy adviser at the White House drug policy office from 2009 to 2010.
Approximately 1.2 million residents nationwide are living with HIV, and HIV/AIDS deaths have significantly dropped. Between 2000 and 2013 in the United States, deaths decreased by 2.8 percent annually, faster than the global average of 1.5 percent. This is a major achievement, but the opioid epidemic is undoubtedly making the fight against HIV challenging. Additionally, while 87 percent of people living with HIV are aware of the infection, less than half can access life-saving medication.
This means the fight against HIV/AIDS is far from over, and requires further federal, state, and local action, say health experts and activists. Even so, the public health problem does not appear to be a priority for the Trump Administration. “We are certainly concerned,” said AIDS United president and CEO Jesse Milan, who has been living with HIV for over three decades. The White House is not committed to the global fight against AIDS, he told ThinkProgress. He pointed out that the Office of National AIDS Policy (ONAP) is vacant.
“There is no appointed Director of AIDS Policy nor is there anyone in an acting director role,” Milan said. “The HHS Office of HIV/AIDS and Infectious Disease Policy has been helping to fill this gap, but there is no specific White House leadership on the issue.” No one immediately responded when ThinkProgress reached out to the White House for comment.
Milan’s point is most evident on the ONAP’s landing page on the White House website. It’s completely bare. The Obama Administration listed its HIV/AIDS strategies and reports. It also featured President Barack Obama’s last Worlds AIDS Day address. “What once seemed like an impossible dream — the dream of an AIDS free generation — is within our grasp,” said Obama in a YouTube address on Nov. 30, 2016. “But we know there is work to do.”
Trump’s written recognition of World AIDS Day was criticized by the Human Rights Campaign for neglecting to mention that the LGBTQ community is disproportionately affected by HIV. When the Daily Beast reached out for comment, the Trump administration said “HIV/AIDS afflicts people of all types.”
.@RealDonaldTrump's #WorldAIDSDay proclamation is missing a few things:
-It doesn't mention the marginalized communities disproportionately affected by HIV & AIDS–like #LGBTQ, Black & Latinx people.
-He’s touting programs that he’s proposing to significantly reduce funding for🤔
— HumanRightsCampaign (@HRC) November 30, 2017
Trump neglected to mention LGBTQ people or people of color when he issued a statement in support of National HIV Testing Day, wrote ThinkProgress reporter Zack Ford. “In 2015, there were 17,670 African Americans diagnosed with HIV, and more than half of them identified as gay or bisexual men,” wrote Ford.
Trump’s lack of commitment was noticed by the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS (PACHA). Six members of the group resigned because the current administration was not prioritizing this issue. Additionally, the Trump administration continues to propose or support policies that would cut funds to combat HIV/AIDS. Trump’s proposed cutting funds to a program that bought antiretroviral drugs for about 11.5 million people worldwide who live with HIV. Additionally, Congressional bills — nearly every G.O.P health bill intended to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act — attempted to shred the Medicaid program. “More than 40 percent of people living with HIV access health care through Medicaid,” said Milan.
“We need to preserve the achievements we made so progress doesn’t fall apart,” said Milan. AIDS United, led by Milan, is trying to safeguard progress. The organization is administering the Southern HIV Impact Fund, it announced Friday, that would give $2.65 million in support of 37 organizations in nine southern states. The fund is a collaborative effort led by private and corporate funders, including Funders Concerned About AIDS, Gilead Sciences, Ford Foundation, Elton John AIDS Foundation, ViiV Healthcare, and Johnson & Johnson.
The grant is prioritizing southern states because, as the Kaiser Family Foundation notes “the South accounted for half (51%) of HIV diagnoses in 2015.”
Correction: An earlier version said the G.O.P. tax bill cuts funds to Medicaid. This is not true. The G.O.P. tax bill potentially cuts funds to Medicare. The story has been updated to reflect this.