The nomination of Representative Tom Price (R-GA) for Secretary of Health & Human Services is the biggest red flag of what’s to come during Donald Trump’s administration.
During his career as a U.S. Representative for Georgia’s 6th congressional district — which includes parts of Atlanta where HIV rates are so high they are comparable to third world countries — Price has perpetuated HIV stigma and marginalized communities by voting against bills that afford protections to the most vulnerable.
He's an acive member of the American Academy of Physicians and Surgeons, a misleading name for an organization that promotes ideas at odds with medical science, including endorsing the falsehood that HIV doesn’t cause AIDS. It's an ugly reminder that Price's efforts to end the epidemic will be minimal, or non-existent.
“At a time when we are at the forefront of new science to deliver better antiretroviral therapies for HIV, breakthroughs in cures for HCV, and pathways for making TB treatments shorter and more tolerable," Treatment Action Group said in a statement, "the nomination of Tom Price threatens to impede the progress of both research and implementation. Upon confirmation, Tom Price will, as promised, oversee the dismantling and overhaul of health care systems that are responsible for delivering many of these medical advances to people in the United States, particularly those communities impacted by health, social and economic disparities as well as stigma.”
During his eight years as a U.S. Representative, Price undermined efforts that aim to provide health care and social services to communities affected most by HIV, which, as TAG points out, include actions to repeal the Affordable Care Act, pushing for the privatization of Medicare, threatening to cap and block-grant Medicaid, supporting the defunding of Planned Parenthood, and pledging further cuts to social service and safety net programs.
If Price becomes Secretary of Human and Health Services, he would be in charge of a department that oversees our health care system, as well as governs our public health, research, and regulatory agencies — like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Indian Health Services, National Institutes of Health, and the Food & Drug Administration.
Before Obama implemented the Affordable Care Act, someone’s HIV often had to progress to AIDS before they were considered eligible for Medicaid. Having any kind of existing condition kept those living with the virus from getting insurance at all. Now, many HIV-positive people have become eligible for both insurance and Medicaid benefits, which provide them comprehensive healthcare (for most, it’s the first time).
The truth is we are never going to progress if the man at the top not only believes that HIV doesn't cause AIDS, but has repeatedly pushed aside opportunities to help the most vulnerable communities in the country to receive healthcare.
If we are to have any hope of ending the HIV, TB, and HCV epidemics around the world, we must have bipartisanship on the federal and state level. We must expand our efforts to have affordable medications for everyone, we must have leaders who rule on facts and scientific data, rather than personal ideologies.
But it will never happen unless we take action. Watch Bernie Sanders grill Price during the heated confirmation hearing: