Members of the LGBT community feel slighted once more by President Trump, this time after he failed to acknowledge them on World AIDS Day, a day set aside to raise awareness about the global pandemic.
Trump's statement said:
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.
Since the beginning of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, more than 76 million people around the world have become infected with HIV and 35 million have died of AIDS. As of 2014, 1.1 million people in the United States are living with HIV. On this day, we pray for all those living with HIV, and those who have lost loved ones to AIDS.
Columnist Steven Thrasher highlighted Trump's response to the White House Office of HIV/AIDS.
Today is World AIDS Day. Some injustices to RT:
- 1 in 2 Black gay men in the US are projected to become HIV+
- Trump ended the White House Office of HIV/AIDS
- Michael Johnson has been in jail for 4+ years for HIV
- A million people a year die of AIDS
- There is no cure yet
— Steven Thrasher (@thrasherxy) December 1, 2017
Keith Boykin, who served in the Clinton administration, highlighted how Trump's proclamation differs from Obama's.
Trump's World AIDS Day proclamation removes President Obama's reference to "gay and bisexual men, transgender people, youth, black and Latino Americans." https://t.co/wwFtkZ3dje pic.twitter.com/49qj7vextp
— Keith Boykin (@keithboykin) December 1, 2017
And the National LGBTQ Task Force's Alex Morash said the president's decision not to highlight the gay community was insulting.
President Trump's World Aids Day proclamation willfully ignored the pain the HIV virus inflicted on the LGBTQ community.
Instead of taking today to be a day of healing and remembrance of those that we have lost, the president choose instead to insult LGBTQ people.
— Alex Morash (@AlexMorash) December 1, 2017
The White House didn't reply to The Fix's questions about why the changes were made in this year's proclamation, but the press secretary’s office told the Daily Beast that “HIV/AIDS afflicts people of all types.”
This is true, but some groups are disproportionately impacted.
Most of those people have been members of the LGBT community or people of color, something those active in the LGBT community pointed out following the White House's statement.
Nearly half — 48 percent — of those diagnosed with AIDS in the United States are African Americans, according to 2015 statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And the year before, the center found that an estimated 70 percent of new HIV infections in the United States came from gay and bisexual men.
The United States historically has been the global leader in the war on AIDS. Previous administrations spent considerable effort addressing the impact of the disease in Africa.
Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson, a senior policy adviser in the Bush White House, wrote:
“During the George W. Bush and Obama administrations, the strategy on AIDS was pretty consistent: Put as many people on treatment as possible. Use economies within the program, and falling drug prices, to increase that number even further. Focus on the places and groups where transmission is highest, but act broadly enough to block transmission routes across the continent.”
But that legacy is now at risk. The Trump administration's 2018 budget proposes cutting $800 million in America’s bilateral HIV/AIDS programs. And neither South Africa nor Nigeria would be in the “priority” category in the State Department's new AIDS strategy despite together being home to about a quarter of the AIDS cases in the world.
Trump wants to undermine America’s progress against AIDS https://t.co/7JZQiep27U
— Michael Gerson (@MJGerson) December 1, 2017
And there's even concern stateside about the president's commitment to eradicating the virus.
A coalition of nearly 40 advocacy groups are urging Congress to protect HIV/AIDS prevention programs out of concern that the Trump administration isn't committed to the global fight against the disease.
“We are writing to sound the alarm,” said the letter, delivered just ahead of World AIDS Day on Friday.
The LGBT community has repeatedly expressed concern about its relationship with the Trump administration, even though the president campaigned as the best option for the gay community, despite his rival Hillary Clinton receiving endorsements from many high-profile LGBT groups and individuals.
At the Republican National Convention, Trump said: “As your president, I will do everything in my power to protect our LGBTQ citizens from the violence and oppression of a hateful foreign ideology — believe me.”
But this World AIDS Day, some are wondering whether the president has much interest in protecting gay Americans from an illness that is arguably a much bigger threat to the community.