As the Trump era begins, only one thing seems to be clear—anything could happen. And as far as HIV/AIDS goes, experts and advocates are not optimistic. Though the President has not, as of this printing, made any clear statements regarding his stance on AIDS and funding for the disease, the trend towards the cutting of public health funding and the elimination of the Affordable Care Act is almost certain to have a negative impact on the 1.2 million people living with HIV in the United States. Moreover, the recently issued executive order impacting international aid organizations pertaining to abortion counseling will likely have a detrimental effect on international AIDS funding coming from the U.S.; HIV prevention is often tied to family planning efforts.
One alarming aspect of the Trump administration in regards to HIV/AIDS policy is the individuals surrounding the President, notably Vice President Mike Pence and recently confirmed Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price. In 2000, Pence notably promoted conversion therapy for gay people and suggested that domestic AIDS funding not be renewed by Congress unless they could “ensure that federal dollars were no longer being given to organizations that celebrate and encourage the types of behaviors that facilitate the spreading of the HIV virus.” Moreover, Pence was the governor of Indiana in the spring of 2015 when that state saw the worst outbreak of HIV in its history. Despite the fact that the outbreak was known to be tied to injection drug use, Pence refused to lift the state ban on needle exchanges, a well-documented public health measure used to combat the epidemic for decades.
Republican congressman Tom Price, Trump’s newly appointed Health Secretary, belongs to a fringe medical society (AAPS) that not only questions the link between HIV and AIDS, but has asserted that abortion causes breast cancer. More worrisome, however, is the fact that Price is vehemently against any expansion of Medicaid and has spoken out against the Affordable Care Act since it first passed. Unfortunately, an attack on Medicaid and the ACA is tantamount to an attack on HIV/AIDS care and does not bode well for Americans who live with HIV and need medication and medical care.
The Telluride AIDS Benefit (TAB) provides funding to Colorado-based HIV organizations that may be used for any purpose the organization deems necessary, including non-medical needs such as food, housing, and transportation. The uncertain future of HIV/AIDS funding in the U.S. only underlines how important the funds provided by non-governmental resources such as TAB will continue to be.
-Words by Sarah Gluckstern