Trump Terminated The Entire Presidential Advisory Council On HIV/AIDS: Here's Why That's A Bad Move

Another day, another catastrophe in the Trump White House. On December 29, 2017, Trump decided it would be best to ring in the new year without the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS. He fired everyone and completely disbanded the council.

The council was started by former President Bill Clinton in 1995 at the behest of medical workers and activists who recognized the need to combat the epidemic, and for more than 20 years it's made great strides in helping promote research and policies that have decreased HIV/AIDS-related deaths and infections in the US.

Trump's firing of the HIV/AIDS council has far-reaching effects. The council had been fighting Trump's desire to take $150 million out of the HIV/AIDS budget at the Center for Disease Control, as well as lobbying against harmful educational policies that will undermine safe sex education. The entire move is a step backwards, as the community of those infected with HIV or AIDS has fought tremendous battles, not just with their health, but with society as a whole. HIV/AIDS has been riddled with conspiracies, rumors, stereotypes and myths that have been debunked by science for years (you can't get AIDS from sitting on the toilet, kids). While the perception of HIV/AIDS has changed for the better, there is still much work to do — and disbanding the experts who are working on the case is not helping that.

  • Trump Fired His Advisory Council On HIV/AIDS For No Reason

    A better question may be "why does Trump do anything that he does?" but that's a question for another time. Trump's disbanding of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS (PACHA) came as a surprise to many, as 10 council members still had remaining time on their respective appointments. Six members of the council had already resigned in June of 2017 in protest of legislation they said would be harmful to those living with HIV/AIDS, and Trump fired the rest via Fedex letter. Some believe that Trump fired them to clear out Obama-era appointments, but considering that Trump hadn't even appointed his own PACHA chief, who can really know the real reasoning behind his decision. 

  • The Russians Didn't Just Meddle In The 2016 Election, They Spread Fake News About AIDS, Too

    The Russians didn't start the "fake news" epidemic with the Trump/Clinton presidential race. During the Cold War, the Russians spread around a conspiracy on AIDS. Operation Infektion, as it was known by the Soviets in the 1980s, was a concocted a story that AIDS was actually a byproduct of US government experiments gone awry. Because Reagan hadn't really done anything about the burgeoning AIDS crisis, it started to seem believable to some that the government could have something to do with AIDS. 

    Operation Infektion started with an anonymous letter to a small newspaper in India, claiming that the disease that the US government supposedly created would soon creep to their country. And the conspiracy spun out from there. Sound familiar to Pizzagate and birthers? It should, because those conspiracies are rooted in the same tactics as Operation Infektion. 

  • LGBT Individuals With HIV/AIDS Are Often Denied Medical Care

    As if the LGBTQ community didn't have it hard enough already, 20% of LGBT people with HIV have reported being denied healthcare. Medical professionals have also blamed health problems on their LGBT status.

    An HIV-positive man was denied a kidney transplant by his insurance company thanks to his diagnosis; an HIV-positive man's family was not allowed to visit him in the hospital and he was not given HIV medication, even after he requested it. The doctor reportedly said, "This is what he gets for going against God's will." Another HIV-positive individual who was scheduled for spinal surgery had that surgery canceled after the surgeon learned about the patient's HIV-positive status. 

    In China, due to widespread fear of AIDS (and the proliferation of myths about the virus), many have reported not being able to receive medical care if they are HIV-positive. This is particularly problematic in rural areas. China also imprisoned an AIDS activist in 2008; another was pushed out of China to go to the United States. 

  • Though HIV Diagnoses Are Decreasing, There Are Still Some Alarming Statistics

    The good news is that between 2008 and 2014, HIV diagnoses decreased 18%. Those contracting the disease from injecting drugs decreased 56%, and heterosexual diagnoses decreased 36%. However, diagnoses in gay and bisexual men did not decrease. In fact, in some demographics of gay and bisexual men, diagnoses actually increased — diagnoses went up 35% for gay and bisexual men between 25 to 34.

    African-Americans account for 44% of HIV diagnoses, and Latin-Americans account for 25% of diagnoses; however, these demographics only represent 12% and 18% of the US population, respectively. 

    But perhaps most troubling? The World Health Organization reports that 40% of those with HIV don't know it — that's 14 million people who are likely suffering and possibly spreading the virus.

  • A Majority Of AIDS Victims Live In The South

    HIV rates in the southern United States are considerably higher than in other regions in the US — in fact, over double the rate of diagnoses in the Midwest. Southern states as a whole comprised 50% of new HIV diagnoses in 2014. Perhaps most troubling is that the South also has the highest number of people living with HIV/AIDS, and the lowest survival rate. 

    So why is this? Perhaps the largest overarching reason diagnoses continue to soar in the South is healthcare. Despite the high poverty rates, Medicaid is severely limited in the South and hard to qualify for. Under Obama's Affordable Care Act, many states in the South did not expand Medicaid as they could have. Now, the Trump administration's healthcare bill will limit Medicaid even further. 

    Part of the reason may also be that large number of African Americans live in the South, and HIV/AIDS is still concentrated in that demographic (45% nationally, 54% in the South). Attitudes towards the LGBTQ community don't help either; the South has continued to criminalize what's called "HIV-risk related behaviors," leading to people are afraid of getting tested and admitting to those behaviors. 

  • There Have Been High-Profile Deaths From AIDS

    AIDS has claimed the lives of many, and the rich and famous haven't escaped its grasp. Liberace, the famed pianist who even had his own TV show at one point, was rumored to be gay throughout his career. However, he sued anyone who dared print the rumor, as most of his fans were female. Though the rumors continued that he had AIDS, those rumors were also denied. He passed away in 1987 of what turned out to be AIDS-related pneumonia. 

    Eddie Mercury of Queen and "Bohemian Rhapsody" fame also died of AIDS-related pneumonia, and though he didn't hide his bisexuality, he didn't reveal his diagnosis until the day before he passed away. 

    Tennis legend Arthur Ashe died in 1993 after contracting AIDS from a blood transfusion. N.W.A. rapper Eazy-E died in 1995 of AIDS, though many dispute that he contracted the disease sexually and think there may have been some sort of conspiracy or cover-up. Author Isaac Asimov, like Ashe, also died after getting AIDS from a blood transfusion. Tom Fogerty of Creedence Clearwater Revival suffered the results of a transfusion as Ashe and Asimov did. Robert Reed, who played the Mike Brady in the Brady Bunch, did have HIV, but it's not clear if he died from AIDS or not. 

    Philosopher Michel Foucault passed away of AIDS in 1984, though many don't see his contracting of the disease with sympathetic eyes. Foucault was rumored to have knowingly given HIV to others and was famously quoted as saying, "Besides, to die for the love of boys: what could be more beautiful?"