BY CHRIS JOHNSON, WASHINGTON BLADE
President Trump issued a statement Tuesday observing National HIV Testing Day, calling the disease “one of the world’s most significant health challenges” and encouraging Americans to learn their HIV status. “Thanks to concerted efforts to diagnose and treat more and more people, Americans living with HIV today are living longer, healthier lives than ever before,” Trump said. “My administration is determined to build upon those improvements and continue supporting domestic and global health programs that prioritize testing and treatment for HIV/AIDS.”
The statement — obtained in advance by the Washington Blade — marks the first time President Trump has explicitly addressed HIV/AIDS either during the campaign trail or during his administration. The president’s statement comes shortly after six members of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS resigned in protest, asserting the president doesn’t care about the epidemic. Trump called testing “crucial” in combatting HIV/AIDS, adding we’ve “never been closer to conquering the epidemic.” “HIV carriers who do not know they have the virus put themselves and others at risk, missing out on life-saving treatment and possibly, inadvertently affecting others,” Trump said. “People who are not currently receiving treatment transmit more than 90 percent of infections, as they do not benefit from treatments that dramatically reduce the amount of virus in their bodies. That is why the key to interrupting the transmission is a simple, routine HIV test.” Trump supports legislation pending before Congress that would repeal Obamacare, which HIV/AIDS advocates seeking to combat HIV/AIDS have criticized. The Congressional Budget Office estimates it would lead to an estimated 22 million losing health care coverage under the proposal. Most of the loss of coverage would be the result of cuts to Medicaid, which provides care to an estimated 40 percent of people with HIV. Trump’s fiscal year 2018 budget request also proposes steep cuts in HIV/AIDS programs. Among them is a $150 million cut to the Centers for Disease Control for HIV testing and prevention initiatives.