President Donald Trump failed to mention the LGBTQ community in a statement issued Thursday recognizing World AIDS Day.
“On World AIDS Day, we honor those who have lost their lives to AIDS, we celebrate the remarkable progress we have made in combatting this disease, and we reaffirm our ongoing commitment to end AIDS as a public health threat,” he said in the proclamation.
Since 1988, World AIDS Day has been observed every year on Dec. 1 to raise awareness of the disease and commemorate those who have died from it.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), gay and bisexual men account for an estimated 70 percent of new HIV infections in the U.S. Black gay and bisexual men are particularly susceptible, with an estimated 10,000 new HIV infections annually.
Former presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton both mentioned the disease’s disproportionate impact on the LGBTQ community, although George W. Bush also failed to note the relationship between gay people and HIV/AIDS in his past statements on the day.
“We must target our efforts to reduce HIV-related health disparities and focus increased attention on highly vulnerable populations,” Obama said in his 2015 proclamation.
Simply put, HIV affects people in some communities more than others, and our federal government cannot turn a blind eye to that.
About 1.1 million people in the U.S. are estimated to be living with HIV/AIDS, according to the CDC, with another 36 million worldwide.
Scott Schoettes, the HIV Project director at Lambda Legal, slammed Trump's failure to mention the LGBTQ community and other vulnerable populations.
“Simply put, HIV affects people in some communities more than others, and our federal government cannot turn a blind eye to that,” he said in a statement.
Schoettes was one of six members of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS to resign from the council in June, saying the Trump administration “simply doesn’t care” about the disease.
He also called out Trump for failing to mention the disease’s disproportionately high impact on transgender women and people of color, particularly young men and gay and bisexual men.
To mark World AIDS Day, the ONE campaign, an international nonprofit that targets preventable diseases, also released a report charging that the Trump administration’s approach to HIV/AIDS could result in millions of new HIV infections and thousands of deaths worldwide.
“For the first time in 15 years, the U.S. government is showing signs of retreat from this fight,” the organization’s report said. “The Trump administration appears ready to unilaterally trade the iconic red ribbon for a white flag of surrender in the global fight against AIDS.”
The White House has proposed to cut $800 million from the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), which supports treatment, testing and counseling around the world, particularly in Africa.
In his World AIDS Day proclamation, Trump mentioned PEPFAR, saying, “We remain deeply committed to supporting adolescent girls and young women through this program.”
The website for the White House’s Office of National AIDS Policy has been inaccessible since Trump’s inauguration day, and the office’s former director, Amy Lansky, has since departed. There are no clear plans regarding when or if Trump plans to reopen the office.