President Trump Encourages Americans to Learn Their Status on National HIV Testing Day

More than 1.1 million Americans are HIV-positive, yet 15% are unaware of their status.

Despite the resignations of 6 members of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS (PACHA) on June 13, 2017, a recent statement from the White House promises to prioritize HIV/AIDS treatment.

In a statement released yesterday on National HIV Testing Day, President Donald Trump encouraged individuals to get routine tests to help combat the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

“Today, there are 1.1 million people living with HIV in America, 15% of whom do not yet know their HIV status,” Trump stated. “Among young Americans infected by the virus, only 50% know they have contracted it. HIV carriers who do not know they have the virus put themselves and others at risk, missing out on life-saving treatment and possibly, inadvertently infecting overs.

“People who are not currently receiving treatment transmit more than 90% of infections, as they do not benefit from treatments that dramatically reduce the amount of virus in their bodies. That is why the key to interrupting the chain of transmission is a simple, routine HIV test.”

National HIV Testing Day was first observed on June 27, 1995. Since antiretroviral drugs came onto the marketplace, the face of HIV/AIDS has significantly changed. A disease that was once a death sentence, can now be effectively managed.

Furthermore, the introduction of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) helps lower the risk of HIV infection among individuals who are at a high-risk. According to the CDC, daily PrEP reduces the risk of infection from sex by more than 90%, and more than 70% among injection drug users.

This is President Trump’s first statement since the release of a Newsweek column written by former PACHA member Scott A. Schoettes that described the reasons for the resignation of the 6 PACHA members. Lucy Bradley-Springer, Gina Brown, Ulysses W. Burley III, Michelle Ogle, and Grissel Granados announced their resignations along with Schoettes.

“The Trump Administration has no strategy to address the ongoing HIV/AIDS epidemic, seeks zero input from experts to formulate HIV policy, and—–most concerning––pushes legislation that will harm people living with HIV and halt or reverse important gains made in the fight against this disease,” Schoettes wrote in Newsweek.

PACHA was created in 1995 to provide advice, information, and recommendations regarding policies, programs, and research that promotes effective treatment, prevention, and a cure for HIV and AIDS, according to their website.

Schoettes continued by alleging that the Office of National AIDS Policy website was removed the day President Trump took office.

“There has been no replacement for this website 132 days into his administration,” he wrote. “More important, President Trump has not appointed anyone to lead the White House Office of National AIDS Policy.”

However, the final straw that prompted 6 PACHA members to resign was the proposed health care reform that would slash funding for HIV and AIDS-related programs by at least $1.1 billion, according to The New York Times.

“More than 40% of people with HIV receive care through Medicaid, proposed cuts to that program would be extremely harmful,” Schoettes wrote.

During a council meeting in March, members penned a letter to Tom Price, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, to express their concerns regarding the plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Schoettes said that the council received what he characterized as a perfunctory response, reported US News. The administration has not yet responded to Schoettes’s commentary in Newsweek.

Despite these issues, Trump stated his administration would provide support to combat the spread of HIV.

“Thanks to concerted efforts to diagnose and treat more and more people, Americans living with HIV today are living longer, healthier lives than ever before,” Trump said. “My administration is determined to build upon these improvements and continue supporting domestic and global health programs that prioritize testing and treatment for HIV/AIDS.”