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12 • FEBRUARY 08, 2019 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM

NATIONAL

Trump’s SOTU speech includes audience of trans service members Skepticism as president calls for end to HIV epidemic By CHRIS JOHNSON President Trump’s audience for his second State of the Union address on Tuesday included a joint session of Congress — and several transgender service members invited as guests of Democratic lawmakers. Reps. Chris Pappas (D-N.H.) and Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) invited the trans service members as their guests. The speech itself ignored the issue of trans military service, but President Trump took the opportunity to call for an end to HIV transmission in the next 10 years — a call that was received with skepticism from advocates unhappy with his administration’s approach to the epidemic thus far. Trump talked about the United States having made “important strides” in combating HIV/AIDS, but that the time has come to finish the job. “In recent years we have made remarkable progress in the fight against HIV and AIDS,” Trump said. “Scientific breakthroughs have brought a once-distant dream within reach. My budget will ask Democrats and Republicans to make the needed commitment to eliminate the HIV epidemic in the United States within 10 years. We have made incredible strides. Incredible. Together, we will defeat AIDS in America and beyond.” The part of Trump’s remarks about “important strides” in combatting HIV/ AIDS and defeating the disease not just in the United States but “beyond” were ad-libs from his prepared remarks. Trump’s line about defeating HIV/AIDS was among those applauded by members of Congress on both sides of the aisle, including possible 2020 hopefuls Sens. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio). The inclusion of the call to end HIV in the State of the Union address was expected. On Monday, Politico reported health officials

From left: Navy veteran Tavion Dignard, Army Maj. Ian Brown, Capt. Jennifer Peace, Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Megan Winters and Air Force Staff Sgt. Logan Ireland attend the State of the Union Address on Feb. 5. Blade photo by Michael Key

within the Trump administration were expecting that call to be a component of the speech. The Department of Health & Human Services is also expected to unveil a more detailed plan later this week. Carl Schmid, deputy executive director of the AIDS Institute, said in a statement Trump is taking a “bold step” in the fight to end HIV/AIDS. A co-chair of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS, Schmid said the remarks were part of a bold initiative to end the HIV epidemic by 2030. “His proposal to increase access to antiretroviral medications for people living with HIV and for prevention in those communities with the highest rates of HIV and where additional resources are most needed will translate into fewer HIV infections,” Schmid said. “Under the president’s proposal, the number of new infections can eventually be reduced to zero.” Trump’s call to end HIV transmission is consistent with the administration adopting Obama-era goals to combat the epidemic in a progress report issued last year on the 2010

National AIDS Strategy. The administration is set to produce an updated version of that strategy by 2020. The announcement also follows Secretary of Health & Human Services Alex Azar’s pledge in December to fight HIV/AIDS in a speech that recognized its disproportionate impact on African-Americans, Latinos and gay men. Among those commending Trump for including a call to end HIV and calling for additional detail was Michael Weinstein, president of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation. “Many experts have stated over and over that we have the tools to end the epidemic. What we lack is the political will,” Weinstein said. “AHF looks forward to the details of the president’s plan and hopes it will address primary prevention of new HIV infections – including aggressive promotion of condoms and safer sex education, universal access to treatment for everyone living with HIV, strengthening the Ryan White HIV Program and protecting the 340B Drug Discount Program.” But the general consensus among HIV/ AIDS advocates was Trump — who defeated a Democratic nominee in 2016 who talked of

an “AIDS-free generation” — wasn’t making enough commitments to pull off his stated goal. Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.), who’s gay and one of the co-chairs of the LGBTQ Equality Caucus, told he Washington Blade on Capitol Hill after the State of the Union address he does “applaud” the pledge to end HIV, but said the commitment may fall by the wayside like so many others. “The president made bold promises in the campaign about reducing the costs of prescription drugs and when it came really time to follow through on it, he didn’t do it,” Takano said. “The same thing about infrastructure. Democrats, all of us, are willing to work with him on a true infrastructure bill, but he’s got to follow up on it, so the words I can agree with, whether they are bold true words remain to be seen. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was also cautious about Trump’s commitment to end HIV in a statement after the speech. “The president’s call for ending HIV transmission in America is interesting, but if he is serious about ending the HIV/AIDS crisis, he must end his assault on health care and the dignity of the LGBTQ community,” Pelosi said. Stacey Long Simmons, director of advocacy and action at the National LGBTQ Task Force, also questioned whether Trump was serious about ending HIV transmission despite his words in the State of the Union address.  “HIV advocates all agree that ending transmission is an important goal,” Simmons said. “Based on Trump’s repeatedly broken promises, we have cause to question his commitment until we see the necessary funding flowing to strategies that will actually end transmission.” Trump has disappointed advocates fighting HIV/AIDS before. For starters, Trump — in an action first reported by the Washington Blade — fired all members of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS in late 2017 via a letter without explanation. Those terminations occurred after six members of the council resigned on their own in protest over the administration’s inaction on the epidemic.  Continues at losangelesblade.com

Profile for Los Angeles Blade

Losangelesblade.com, Volume 3, Issue 6, February 8, 2019  

Losangelesblade.com, Volume 3, Issue 6, February 8, 2019

Losangelesblade.com, Volume 3, Issue 6, February 8, 2019  

Losangelesblade.com, Volume 3, Issue 6, February 8, 2019

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