BY CHRIS JOHNSON, WASHINGTON BLADE
President Trump’s first-ever proclamation for World AIDS Day calls for eradication of the disease “as a public health threat,” but leaves out enumeration of marginalized groups — such as LGBT people — who are most affected by the epidemic.
Trump issued the proclamation on Thursday on the day before World AIDS Day, which many HIV/AIDS advocates observe to draw attention to the disease. An estimated 1.1 million people in the United States are living with HIV/AIDS and 36.7 million people across the globe.
For the first time, Trump says his administration is committed to ending the HIV/AIDS across the globe — a pledge his predecessors in the White House have made, but Trump hadn’t taken until now.
“Today, on World AIDS Day, we honor those who have lost their lives to AIDS, we celebrate the remarkable progress we have made in combatting this disease, and we reaffirm our ongoing commitment to end AIDS as a public health threat,” Trump writes.
Consistent with his use of faith in public announcements, Trump invokes the use of prayer to draw attention to those who’ve died of HIV/AIDS.
“On this day, we pray for all those living with HIV, and those who have lost loved ones to AIDS,” Trump writes.
Trump hails the success of public-private partnerships in HIV prevention and treatment as well as President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, a plan to combat the HIV/AIDS epidemic globally.
“Through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and its data-driven investments in partnership with more than 50 countries, we are supporting more than 13.3 million people with lifesaving antiretroviral treatment,” Trump says. “We remain deeply committed to supporting adolescent girls and young women through this program, who are up to 14 times more likely to contract HIV than young men in some sub-Saharan African countries.”
Im the future, Trump pledges to continue to invest in testing strategies “to help people who are unaware they are living with HIV learn their status” and to implement the recent PEPFAR Strategy for Accelerating HIV/AIDS Epidemic Control, which seeks to guide investments in more than 50 countries to control the epidemic
“Due to America’s leadership and private sector philanthropy and innovation, we have saved and improved millions of lives and shifted the HIV/AIDS epidemic from crisis toward control,” Trump says. “We are proud to continue our work with many partners, including governments, private-sector companies, philanthropic organizations, multilateral institutions, civil society and faith-based organizations, people living with HIV, and many others.”
But the proclamation lacks explicit inclusion of marginalized groups whom HIV/AIDS most affects, such as LGBT people. According to the Centers for Disease Control, gay and bisexual men make up an estimated 70 percent of new HIV infections in the United States. Although transgender specific-data is limited, an estimated 22 percent of all transgender women have HIV.
In contrast to Trump’s proclamation, Obama’s proclamation in 2016 spells out LGBT people are among the individuals who are at highest risk of contracting HIV/AIDS.
“In the United States, more than 1.2 million people are living with HIV,” Obama wrote. “Gay and bisexual men, transgender people, youth, black and Latino Americans, people living in the Southern United States, and people who inject drugs are at a disproportionate risk.”
Trump didn’t have an explicit plan to combat HIV/AIDS during his presidential campaign, but the proclamation isn’t the first time he’s addressed the issue. In June, Trump issued a statement observing National HIV Testing Day and encouraged Americans to learn their HIV status.
Moreover, Trump’s praise for programs like PEPFAR ignores his own plans to slash the initiatives. His fiscal year 2018 budget proposal would decrease the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and PEPFAR by 17 percent each, making more than $1 billion in cuts.
Joel Kasnetz, a spokesperson for the Democratic National Committee, said Trump is trying to erase his own record in his World AIDS Day proclamation.
“Pretending to recognize World AIDS Day while proposing to slash PEPFAR’s budget by $1 billion is downright insulting,” Kasnetz said. “Trying to erase LGBTQ people from the history of HIV/AIDS is another slap in the face. In his first year in office, Trump hasn’t missed an opportunity to be cruel to the LGBTQ community and the millions living with HIV all over the world.
Carl Schmid, deputy executive director for the AIDS Institute, said the proclamation has “some significant developments,” such as the call to end HIV/AIDS, but leaves much to be desired.
“While pleased to have president’s commitment, note that his only plan for U.S. is HIV testing,” Schmid said. “Need other prevention efforts and care and treatment, but [Trump’s] silent on that.”