Today, HRC called on Donald Trump Jr., son of President Trump, to apologize for his vile weekend tweet stigmatizing people living with HIV.
“Trump Jr. just proved again what we already knew -- that he, his father and the Trump-Pence administration don’t care about people living with HIV, are undermining competent care and have no understanding of people living with HIV,” said HRC President Alphonso David. “Trump Jr.’s absolutely disgusting and ignorant tweet only serves to perpetuate the stigma faced by people living with HIV, which HRC and LGBTQ advocates have fought so long to end. Trump Jr. must apologize. And Trump and Pence must put their money where their mouth is and actually sufficiently fund the domestic initiatives aimed at ending the epidemic they claim to be combatting.”
Donald Trump and Mike Pence share a disturbing record on HIV and AIDS. In 2017, the Trump-Pence White House proposed a federal budget that would have slashed $1.1 billion in funding for international HIV-prevention programs. This was slammed by experts, who claimed it would lead to political instability and entirely reverse the gains made against the disease in the past decade. The same budget proposal called for a repeal of Obamacare that included deep cuts to Medicaid and defunding Planned Parenthood for a year, despite the sobering reality that 40 percent of Americans with HIV depend on Medicaid to pay their medical bills.
Early last year, the Trump-Pence Administration’s Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) proposed a regulation that would blatantly allow healthcare providers a license to discriminate based on their own personal beliefs, even in cases of life-saving medical care, which would drastically impact patients living with HIV and AIDS.
During Pence’s time as governor of Indiana, he oversaw the worst outbreak of HIV and AIDS in the state’s history due to his refusal to lift a ban on needle exchange programs, only backing down after his approach drew universal outrage from public health experts, including the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). His actions have since been described as “the case study for how misguided health policies can endanger lives.”
Pence has spent his career aggressively demanding Planned Parenthood be defunded, even to the detriment of HIV and AIDS prevention, calling condoms “very, very poor protection against sexually-transmitted diseases” and stated that if Planned Parenthood wanted to provide HIV testing services, they should stop providing abortions.
Donald Trump has demonstrated his own ignorance on HIV on numerous occasions. Microsoft founder Bill Gates says he has had to explain to the President -- twice -- that there is a difference between HIV and HPV. In 1997, Trump bizarrely characterized his early sex life as his “own personal Vietnam” -- a war he avoided through five deferments -- and said his avoidance of contracting STDs made him feel like “a great and very brave soldier.” In the same interview, he joked that he could have forced Princess Diana to have an HIV test.
William Barr, the Trump-Pence Administration’s nominee for Attorney General, created an “HIV prison camp” in Guantanamo Bay in 1991, which reportedly held 310 asylum-seekers in dire conditions without adequate healthcare. Barr has also made personal statements promoting a draconian approach to the federal government’s role in responding to the HIV/AIDS epidemic, including the adoption of proven methods of prevention and access to treatment. Barr blamed AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections on “sexual licentiousness,” calling them “the costs associated with personal misconduct.” He disputed public health efforts to inform the American people about the transmission and prevention of HIV and AIDS, opposing public health interventions, such as the distribution of condoms, because “by removing the costs of [sexual] misconduct, the government serves to perpetuate it.”