Today is World HIV Day and yesterday, U.S. President Donald Trump issued the expected Trump World HIV Day proclamation. The proclamation spent most of its time talking about public and private investments in HIV treatment and prevention in other countries, it mentioned the 1.1 million Americans currently living with HIV, and also added, “On this day, we pray for all those living with HIV, and those who have lost loved ones to AIDS.”
But many Democratic and LGBTQ leaders pointed out that Trump’s proclamation didn’t mention the virus’ disproportionate impact on gay and bi men (particularly young men of color) or trans women. Surprisingly, Obama’s first World HIV Day proclamations didn’t either.
Is the Trump World HIV Day proclamation really that unique?
While many LGBTQ sites have criticized Trump’s proclamation as proof of his continued antipathy against queer populations and brown-skinned people, Republican presidential World HIV Day proclamations regularly exclude mentions of such communities. Former President George W. Bush’s proclamations from 2001 to 2008 never mentioned queer or non-white people either. (Granted, he was one of the most anti-LGBTQ presidents of all time, as most Republican presidents have been.)
Ex-President Barack Obama’s 2009, 2011, 2013 World HIV Day proclamations didn’t mention these populations either. His 2010 one briefly mentioned how HIV affects people regardless of “ethnicity, sexual orientation [and] gender identity.”
But it wasn’t until 2012 that Obama finally proclaimed, “We must continue to focus on populations with the highest HIV disparities — including gay men, and African American and Latino communities.” His proclamations from 2014 onward continually mentioned these populations.
The Trump World HIV Day proclamation matters less than his inaction
But while LGBTQ and Democratic leaders have denounced Trump for “cruelly” excluding these populations from his proclamation, it’s far more alarming that he has yet to appoint a leader to the Office of National AIDS Policy or put up a new government website for the office. If you go to that page at whitehouse.gov, it’s blank.
Trump’s 2017 World HIV Day proclamation says that “The number of annual HIV infections fell 18% between 2008 and 2014, saving an estimated $14.9 billion in lifetime medical costs.” It also mentions how the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the Determined, Resilient, Empowered, AIDS-free, Mentored, and Safe public-private partnership (DREAMS) have resulted in declining HIV rates in over 50 countries worldwide.
But it specifically says nothing about what his administration is doing to curb rising HIV rates domestically. If your curious, his inaction on the Office of National AIDS Policy speaks much louder than any proclamation ever could.