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Donald Trump’s proposed budget cuts would lead to more than 300,000 deaths from HIV/AIDS each year, according to a recently released report.

The president has announced his intention to ax the federal government’s funding to fight HIV/AIDS by $1 billion, which the ONE Campaign claims would result in 1.75 million new infections annually.

“This strategy could effectively reduce the number of people added to treatment each year by a third, and mean that we would reverse course in a successful drive to end this epidemic,” the international advocacy group claims, noting that the budget cuts would slice the current rate of funding by 20 percent.

The president’s 2019 budget would decimate funding for the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) by $800 million, as well as slicing $225 million from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria.

First established in 2003 by under President George W. Bush, the ONE Campaign claims that PEPFAR has saved more than 11 million lives around the world. In the 15 years since the program was enacted with bipartisan support, the number of deaths related to HIV/AIDS has dropped by nearly half: 47 percent.

Bush himself advocated against any cuts to PEPFAR in a recent Washington Post op-ed.

“Some will argue that we have enough problems at home and shouldn’t spend money overseas,” the conservative claimed. “I argue that we shouldn’t spend money on programs that don’t work, whether at home or abroad. But they should fully fund programs that have proven to be efficient, effective and results-oriented.”

“We are on the verge of an AIDS-free generation, but the people of Africa still need our help,” he continued.

The Human Rights Campaign blasted the proposed budget for the impact it would have on queer and trans individuals, who remain at the highest risk of contracting HIV/AIDS around the world. More than a quarter of gay and bisexual men living in South Africa—26.8 percent—are positive for the virus, and these rates are even more elevated among men of color.

“The elimination or slashing of programs related to the Affordable Care Act, HIV/AIDS, and international humanitarian projects are a direct threat to the safety and well-being of LGBTQ people here and around the world,” claimed HRC Government Affairs Director David Stacy.

“Budgets reflect your values,” he added. “The Trump-Pence budget… shows a callous disregard for critical programs that impact LGBTQ Americans.”

The Trump administration’s cuts to HIV/AIDS funding are just one of several moves the White House has taken in recent months to rollback the government’s efforts to prevent and treat the virus—both in the United States and abroad.

President Trump disbanded the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS in December months after six appointees resigned in protest over the administration's inaction on the issue. In a letter, they claimed they could not effectively advocate for people living with HIV under a president “who simply does not care.”

“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,” they wrote at the time.

On the day of the inauguration, the White House scrubbed any mention of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy—an Obama-era plan to reduce new HIV infections by 2020—from its website. Over a year later, the administration has yet to hire a new director to oversee the White House Office of National AIDS Policy (ONAP).

If passed, the 2019 budget would also repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and eliminate the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program.

Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images


Nico Lang
Nico Lang is a staff writer for INTO, covering news, politics, and global LGBTQ issues.