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HIV Prevention Isn't Important to the Trump Administration

Trump doesn't seem to think HIV prevention is an important issue

Many of those most at risk voted for a man who refuses to protect them. 

Before President-elect Trump won the election, 29 percent of registered American voters said that fighting HIV and AIDS was a top priority when considering a candidate. Even though Trump rarely spoke about the issue before and after his campaign, the message is loud and clear: HIV will not be a top priority in a Trump administration.

That first became clear with his choice of Governor Mike Pence as his running mate. With Pence, Trump chose a Vice-President,  who shamed AIDS activists at the 1996 election and published antigay articles arguing that LGBT people shouldn’t be allowed to serve in the military, nor should they be allowed to be journalists. 

Pence supported his state's ban on needle exchange programs which helped cause and fuel a massive HIV outbreak in southern Indiana. The rural and sparsely populated county accounted for a full 10 percent of the 2,300 new HIV diagnoses last year where injection drug use was the transmission mode, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

As The New York Times reported, in Scott County, Indiana, 181 people tested positive between November 2014 and August 2015 due to shared needles. That number was growing higher by the day. Pence, a devout Christian, reportedly refused to iniate a needle exchange program even during the outbreak because of his religious beliefs. Ultimately he relented on a temporary authorization, due primarily to pressure from other Indiana lawmakers. 

(For more on Pence's health record, and how it could impact those with HIV read this.)

Despite the fact that Trump’s administration has inidcated little or no interest in protecting HIV-positive people or  helping prevention efforts, many of those most at risk actually voted for him.

Earlier this year, the CDC listed 220 counties most at risk of having an HIV outbreaks like the one that hit Indiana. After the election, the news site Vocativ reveiewed how each of those counties voted and found that 216 voted for Trump and Pence.

In a nutshell, 98 percent of those most vunerable to an HIV outbreak voted for a man who does not have their best interests in mind. 

Although some people still think HIV is soley a gay or Black issue, predominantly white communities have become the highest at risk of contracting HIV through injection drug use. When it comes to syringe exchanges and other HIV prevention methods that hep stop outbreaks before they start, Jeremiah Johnson of the Treatment Action Group told Vocativ, “This is about valuing communities that need our support to take care of themselves. These are not immoral, irresponsible, stupid people. These are just humans who when we don’t invest in these communities, when we neglect them, when we don’t spend public health dollars on them, this is what happens.”

The best way to stop HIV outbreaks is by preventing HIV transmission. We have the tools to do so: needle exchanges, Treatment as Prevention, and PrEP are three strategies we know work. But will they get funded under a Trump regime bent on cutting government services? 

“The major concern that we have with Trump is we don’t know what he’s going to do,” Johnson said. “He’s volatile. Right now, with HIV/AIDS, we’re fortunate in the sense he hasn’t even mentioned us in his efforts to scale back health care in the country.” 

Trump has been talking about dismantling the Affordable Care Act, privatizing Medicare, and turning Medicaid over to the states. If he's successful in these areas, PrEP rollout efforts could stall and there will be fewer people on treatment, because fewer people will have insurance and the cost of antiretroviral medications are likely to rise. 

“This is about people’s lives and making sure they feel valued,” said Johnson. “And I think that’s something Pence and [Trump's Health and Human Services pick Tom] Price have proven they really don’t care about, quite frankly.”

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