Almost immediately after President Trump took office, the webpage for the Office of National AIDS Policy, which previously displayed President Obama’s goals for lowering national HIV rates, was removed (and continues to remain blank).
As Mic points out, as a result of Trump’s vow of cutting government spending by $10 million over the next decade, he instituted a hiring freeze on all federal employees, which included departments like the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which is responsible for enforcing federal laws making it illegal to discriminate against a job applicant or an employee because of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, national origin, age, disability or genetic information.
It’s clear where the Trump Administration stands on HIV research and advocacy. If it were up to them, there would be zero involvement in the federal government for the private arena. Even though it’s illegal to fire someone because they’re HIV-positive, discrimination in the workplace is at an all time high.
According to the EEOC, though the number of workplace HIV discrimination cases fell after the AIDS crisis, within the last few years it began to rise up again — from 117 in 2015 to 220 in 2016, an 88 percent increase.
Due to ignorance and a lack of education, employers and co-workers often think it’s OK to discriminate. After all, it’s their place of business. The thing is, however, it is not only effecting workers.
HIV criminalization laws go against logic and human decency, imprisoning people who are HIV-positive even if they’re undetectable, yet we still allow it to happen. Why? Because there’s hardly any backend support to stop it.
Trump’s support for the First Amendment Defense Act, which in a nutshell is a “religious freedom” bill, instills a mindset for employers that they can discriminate against anyone on the basis of their religious belief. This kind of treatment goes beyond the workplace. It can extend to hospitals, law enforcement, even doctor/patient relationships. It can virtually be limitless.
It’s no secret what Vice President Mike Pence thinks about HIV and AIDS. While he was governor of Indiana, his state saw the fastest outbreak in history due to his negligence of pushing through a needle exchange program, which could have saved hundreds of people from attaining the virus.
And let’s not kid ourselves. Employers have been finding ways around protections of workplace discrimination for decades. As health educator at Chicago’s Center on Halsted, Hadeis Safi, said to Mic.com, "You can't get fired for having HIV, but you can get fired for being late to work. If I want to get rid of you, I can pay really close attention to whether you're on time or not. If you're late three times, well, there you go. I'm not firing you because you have HIV. I'm firing you 'because you were late.'"
As a result of so much fear mongering, Safi has often advised clients with HIV not to disclose their status to their employers, just to be safe — even if they’re undetectable.
It's time to open our eyes and realize that things are not going to get better under a Trump administration. Years of progress is literally getting erased before our very eyes. This is a time to panic.