As a person living with HIV for over three decades, I am deeply troubled by Slate Magazine’s report that the Trump administration plans to reallocate funding committed to the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program to cover the cost of child detainment tied to its “zero tolerance” immigration policy. Any reallocation of Ryan White Program funds for purposes not related to caring for the 1.2 million people living with HIV in this country is unacceptable. Diverting these funds to cover the ever-growing costs of a policy that is unnecessary, cruel, and a violation of basic human decency is especially reprehensible.
And I'm not the only one who feels this way. Last month CBS News reported that two-thirds of Americans oppose the Trump administration policy of separating immigrant children from their families when they cross the border illegally (according to a recently released poll by Quinnipiac University).
As a payer of last resort, the Ryan White Program covers vital medical and supportive services for people who have no other means to pay. Any shortages in funding to the program would result in essential services not provided to potentially thousands of Americans. This could mean people not receiving life-saving medications or losing insurance coverage because funding was not available to cover their premiums. While we wait for the administration to confirm that no current allocations would be affected, we remain opposed to diverting any funds earmarked to address the HIV epidemic, being used for any other purpose. For an administration that just recently proclaimed its commitment to ending the HIV epidemic in this country, stripping funding from the largest HIV-specific federal program defies all logic.
This is an entirely Trump-made crisis that this administration has the power to solve at any time, free of charge. By simply reverting to the policy in place during both the Bush and Obama administrations, no child would be separated from their family and there would be no additional costs accrued by the Office of Refugee Resettlement. Attempting to pay for this policy on the backs of low-income people living with HIV is not OK. If reports of this policy are inaccurate, then we urge the administration to state so clearly and publicly.
The administration needs to stop its policy of “zero tolerance.” Not a single penny of funding from the Ryan White Program — or any other unrelated program at the Department of Health and Human Services — should be used to fuel this xenophobic agenda.
Jesse Milan, Jr., a tireless community advocate and nationally recognized expert on HIV/AIDS policies and programs, joined AIDS United in June 2016 as interim president and CEO and assumed the permanent position on November 28, 2016.
A person living with HIV for over three decades, Milan is a recognized leader in the HIV community. He brings 30-years of experience in executive roles in the public and private sectors and has directed multi-million dollar budgets and staff for federal, state, local and global public health agencies. Notably, beginning in 2002 he served a five-year appointment as co-chair of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)/Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) Advisory Committee on HIV and STD Prevention and Treatment (CHAC) and in 2007 was designated a Fulbright Senior Specialist in Global HIV/AIDS.
Most recently, Milan has been working as both a leadership development consultant with the Dorrier Underwood firm, and as a subject matter expert consultant for clients including the CDC, NMAC, HRSA and the Office of HIV/AIDS and Infectious Disease Policy, within the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Health. Further, he currently serves as Chair Emeritus on the Black AIDS Institute board of directors, on the Scientific Advisory Board for the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and on the Dean’s Advisory Council for the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health.
A lawyer by background, Milan has received numerous honors including the 2015 Public Service Award from the Association of Nurses in AIDS Care (ANAC) and was awarded the HRSA’s HIV/AIDS Bureau Administrator’s Award for his leadership in the global fight against HIV.
He has addressed millions on television and radio, has given hundreds of presentations and workshops, and represented the U.S. State Department on three international speaking tours to seven African nations. He has been an inspiring keynote speaker at national and regional conferences and events including at the White House.
“I love working with people and groups devoted to changing the trajectory of HIV/AIDS,” said Milan. “I have admired AIDS United since its founding and believe in the pivotal role it plays in our nation’s response to the HIV epidemic.”