In his State of the Union address this year, Donald Trump announced a new health initiative to end new HIV transmissions in the U.S. by 2030.
The announcement, while certainly laudable, was a surprise to HIV/AIDS activists who haven’t had much to cheer about since Trump took office.
In June of 2017, six members of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS resigned via a public op-ed in Newsweek saying Trump “simply doesn’t not care” about HIV. They pointed to Trump’s failure to appoint a director of the White House Office of National AIDS Policy as just one example of Trump’s disinterest in the subject.
The position continues to be vacant even today.
Six months later, the president dismissed the remaining members of the council with no explanation.
PACHA has remained dormant for almost a year, until December, when Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar announced Carl Schmid, deputy executive director of The AIDS Institute, and Dr. John Wiesman, secretary of health for the state of Washington, would be the new co-chairs.
This week, the HHS department added nine members to the council saying they will “play a critical role” in the Trump administration’s plans to eliminate HIV infections by 2030.
The new members, who come from a wide range of professions including science, activism, and the pharmaceutical industry, will provide recommendations and advice to HHS regarding programs and policies in treating and preventing HIV.
The council is meeting in Washington, D.C. this week for the first time.
While this represents progress, there’s also mixed news on the HIV/AIDS front in terms of funding.
The president released his proposed budget for fiscal year 2020 which includes $291 million for HIV/AIDS programs in the U.S., but cuts over $1 billion from the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and $250 million from the Global Fund.
PEPFAR is credited with saving over 16 million lives abroad since its launch in 2003 by President George W. Bush.
The Global Fund is an international organization that focuses on ending epidemics like HIV and malaria.