George's LGBTea: One Year With No White House HIV/AIDS Strategy - A Timeline of Chaos
We are now almost one year since Republican nominee Donald J. Trump took over the White House in an election that shocked the entire world, and which continues to keep us on our toes every day. We knew that there would be struggles as the old regime became anew, and most of the policies and procedures that had been put in place over the prior eight years would be removed or changed to align with an agenda that continues to hurt the most marginalized people. However, several empty promises later, there is now a grave concern for the state of HIV funding and the direction this country will go to stop a virus that continues to hurt marginalized communities.
It was January when the HIV community took a collective gasp at the removal of the ONAP website with no warning or reason. At first, many in the community assumed it involved the changing of the administration as the reasoning behind its removal, as it was tied in to the Obama strategy on HIV and AIDS. However, days after this event, it became quite clear that not only was this practice not normal, but the new administration removed the office and its policies without having a replacement plan. The site became an archived site, meaning no new or updated information would be added, and the state of HIV and AIDS in America would soon become a huge concern.
It was March when President Trump stated that he would not touch HIV funding in his proposed budget. A bittersweet moment for many, as we knew that we needed an increase in funding to combat the issues we face in the Deep South with education and resources, yet we were grateful to be able to continue the work we have done over the past 30 years.
The administration would then double back on that, submitting a budget that would cut HIV funding domestically by $50 million, and worldwide from PEPFAR by $300 million.
As stated in a prior article, “The $50 million cuts to HIV in the United States would mainly affect prevention services and research services. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and NIH would be the two agencies that are directly affected by this slash in funding, which could pose even bigger problems for the hundreds of agencies funded under their grant programs to do HIV work. The CDC and NIH are responsible for funding the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), doing HIV work across the country. A reduction in funding would mean that the HHS would have less resources to work with, which would directly affect the most marginalized people.”
Luckily, this initial budget has been rejected and politicians on both sides of the aisle have agreed that any cuts to HIV funding would be potentially dangerous to the advancements that have been made, and detrimental to the work on finding a cure.
This event was followed by another major shocker just months later, when six members of the President’s Advisory Council on HIV and AIDS decided to resign, issuing a scathing letter to the Trump administration and citing a lack of care and inability to work with the White House. This decision shook the HIV community, as it was a stamp on the uncertainty of the future of HIV work in the country.
It was stated in a prior article on HIVEqual.org that “[t]he intersection of the White House’s budget and healthcare bill has forced six members of the council to resign, Scott Schoettes, Lucy Bradley-Springer, Gina Brown, Ulysses Burley III, Michelle Ogle, and Grissel Granados. In a letter sent to the White House, their decision was made based on the fact that the Trump administration has yet to ‘formulate a strategy for combating the illness, and-most concerning-pushes legislation that will harm people living with HIV and halt or reverse important gains made in the fight against the disease.’”
Gratefully, the entire body of PACHA members did not resign. Those who remain continue to work through the problems of a White House that is uneducated in the current needs of those across the country who have fought so hard for us to not have a second epidemic that is reminiscent of our past.
Now, one year into his presidency, we are only certain that if we are going to end the epidemic, it will be through activism and resistance against an agenda that has no concern for those affected most by the HIV epidemic. Community Based Organizations, AIDS Service Organizations, Hospitals, and Clinics will have to continue to push legislators to make HIV funding and support a priority for this administration. There are still over 1.1 million people living with HIV in America, with 1 in 7 living with it unknowingly. Knowing this, we can’t let the work we have done over the past 30 years be destroyed because of ignorance and bigotry.
I hate to say things could be much worse, so I won’t. What I will say is that against all the attacks against the marginalized, one year later we continue to be resilient and unmoved in our fight to end this epidemic that has destroyed so many lives. The road ahead will be long, with many more bumps along the way. But we can’t give up now.