At the opening of the 2018 International AIDS Conference in Amsterdam, the largest conference on any global health issue in the world, openly gay Egyptian actor Omar Sharif Jr. called U.S. President Donald Trump unremarkable and mocked his having to ask Bill Gates about the difference between HIV and HPV, adding, “I don’t know if the difficulty for him lies more in the science or the basic alphabet.”
Sharif, who has been hailed as one of the first openly gay people to ever discuss their sexuality on Egyptian TV and recognized as a voice against Egypt’s brutal anti-LGBTQ crackdown, serves as an ambassador for the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation, an organization which raises funds and awareness to fight the spread of HIV. He also served as the emcee for the 2018 International AIDS Conference’s opening ceremony where he introduced a series of HIV activists.
One hour 33 minutes into the opening ceremony, Omar thanked Elizabeth Taylor’s grandchildren and then deviated from the script saying, “I would love to hear what she had to say to the current administration if she was around today…. We’re hearing a lot of current events and stats but, I mean, having the president ask Bill Gates twice the difference between HIV and HPV – that’s exhausting.”
He continued, “But to be fair, I don’t know if the difficulty for him lies more in the science or the basic alphabet. Enough about unremarkable men, let’s talk about some phenomenal women.” He then introduced the CEO and Founder of Women Fighting AIDS in Kenya, Dorothy Onyango.
Here are Omar Sharif Jr.’s opening comments from the 2018 International AIDS Conference:
Sharif was the only speaker to make such comments about President Trump.
Near the end of 2017, Trump fired 16 federal advisors on HIV, leaving the administration with no expert guidance on the issue. He has since stolen government funds intended for HIV prevention in order to pay for detainment of child immigrants at the U.S. southern border.
Near the beginning of the ceremony, Sharif said, “In 2012, at the height of the Arab Spring, I became the first Arabic public figure to come out openly as gay and question the Egyptian government’s commitment to basic human rights and equality. My announcement immediately went viral and I was met with widespread criticism, threats of violence, and death threats.”
He contiued, I think a lot of people in this room know exactly how that feels. I left the country and I have not been home since. In my region of the world — the Middle East and north Africa — talking about LGBTQ issues, and certainly talking about HIV are incredibly risky. Just starting a conversation takes courage.”
What do you think of Omar Sharif Jr.’s comments about Trump?