President Trump in his final World AIDS Day proclamation Monday evening recognized “untold suffering on millions of people both here at home and abroad” as a result of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, but ends his administration without ever once drawing on the annual statement to recognize LGBTQ people are disproportionately affected by the disease.
It was the last of four formal proclamations on World AIDS Day and National HIV Testing from the Trump administration. None of these statements includes a reference to LGBTQ people, even though health disparities mean LGBTQ people face high rates of HIV/AIDS infection.
Instead, Trump highlights his administration’s “Ending the HIV Epidemic” plan, which he announced during his 2019 State of the Union address. The cross-agency initiative under the Department of Health & Human Services seeks to eliminate at least 90 percent of new HIV infections in the United States within 10 years with a PrEP-heavy focus on diagnosis, treatment, prevention and response.
“Through these and other initiatives we are bringing to a close a painful chapter in human history,” Trump says in the proclamation. “For the past many decades, HIV and AIDS have inflicted untold suffering on millions of people both here at home and abroad. But by the end of this decade, we will have eliminated this scourge from our country and released much of the rest of world from its deadly grip.”
Trump vaguely references the disproportionate impact of HIV/AIDS on marginalized communities with a sentence concluding “it is all too clear that this deadly disease disproportionately affects racial and ethnic minorities.” But none of these racial or ethnic minorities are enumerated, nor are any kind of sexual minorities, such as LGBTQ people.
Although Trump’s recognition of “racial and ethnic minorities” is a step up from previous statements, which failed to recognize HIV/AIDS as a social justice issue in any capacity and not just a disease, Trump throughout each of his four years in office has declined to offer that recognition to LGBTQ people.
In contrast, Obama in his 2016 proclamation spelled out HIV/AIDS predominantly affects “gay and bisexual men, transgender people, youth, black and Latino Americans, people living in the Southern United States, and people who inject drugs.”
The Washington Blade has placed a request in with the White House seeking comment on why Trump once again didn’t mention LGBTQ people in his World AIDS Day proclamation.
Touting his plan to beat HIV at home by 2030, Trump points out the effectiveness of PrEP — which his administration made free for individuals who have a doctor’s prescription, but no health insurance coverage — as well as post-exposure prophylaxis and HIV testing
“Under this plan, our nation’s scientists, researchers and medical professionals have been able to identify where HIV is spreading most rapidly, which informs decisions about where to focus funding and provide support to public health officials who are addressing needs at a local level to eradicate AIDS,” Trump says.
Additionally, Trump commends the National Institutes of Health for continuing its work to develop a vaccine. (Earlier this year, Trump was mocked for mistakenly saying during a White House Rose Garden event an AIDS vaccine was developed when, in fact, it was only in trial stages and not yet available the general public.)
Trump praises PEPFAR after repeatedly seeking big cuts
Finally, Trump praises PEPFAR, or the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, for its continued distribution of anti-viral drugs to fight HIV/AIDS across the globe, mostly in Africa, as the “most successful health initiative in American history.”
“When first launched in 2003, there were 26.6 million Africans infected with AIDS and only 50,000 receiving lifesaving antiretroviral treatment,” Trump says. “Today, more than 15.7 million men, women, and children in Africa are receiving these vital treatments. PEPFAR has saved over 18 million lives, prevented millions of HIV infections, and accelerated progress toward controlling the HIV/AIDS epidemic in more than 50 countries.”
Trump’s budget requests, however, for each of his four years in office sought drastic cuts to PEPFAR. In his request for fiscal year 2021, Trump sought $3.2 billion for PEPFAR, which is $1.17 billion less than the money Congress appropriated for FY-20 funding levels.
In previous years, Congress has rejected the proposed cuts and continued to fund PEPFAR at existing levels. It remains to be seen how the funding will be resolved for agreement in fiscal year 2021.
This article originally appeared in the Washington Blade and is made available in partnership with the National LGBT Media Association.