Four metro Atlanta counties are being targeted as part of President Donald Trump’s plan to end HIV/AIDS in the next 10 years. But some local HIV/AIDS activists reacted with skepticism.
Trump (top photo) made the pledge in his State of the Union address on Tuesday.
“My budget will ask Democrats and Republicans to make the needed commitment to eliminate the HIV epidemic in the United States within 10 years,” he said. “We have made incredible strides. Incredible.”
“Together, we will defeat AIDS in America. And beyond,” he added.
The goal of Trump’s plan is to reduce new HIV infections nationwide by 75 percent in five years and by at least 90 percent in 10 years, according to public health officials who briefed reporters on a call on Wednesday.
The plan involves targeting seven states and an additional 48 counties with the highest rates of new infections. Cobb, DeKalb, Fulton and Gwinnett are the Georgia counties included on that list.
Robert Redfield, director of the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, called it a “laser-focused program.”
Redfield said the CDC will create local “HIV elimination teams” in the targeted areas, “putting boots on the ground to help make sure this key progress is made.”
“We will listen to people living with HIV, and to public health partners in the most-affected communities, so we reach those in greatest need,” he added.
Admiral Brett Giroir, assistant secretary of health at the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, noted that young gay and bisexual men of color, transgender women and people living in the South are hardest hit by the epidemic.
“We are now seeing about 40,000 new infections throughout the United States every year,” he said.
Most of the seven states Trump’s plan will target are in the South: Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma and South Carolina. The 48 counties span an additional 19 states, including Georgia, California, Florida, New York, Tennessee and Texas. The plan also includes Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico. (See the full list)
Officials refuse to release budget numbers
Trump’s record on HIV/AIDS in his two years in office has alarmed activists, leading to their skepticism about his new plan. He’s made repeated attempts to cut funding to fight HIV/AIDS, and his efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act put people living with HIV at risk.
Longtime Atlanta HIV/AIDS activist Craig Washington called Trump’s comments on the issue in the State of the Union address “smoke and mirrors,” according to the AJC.
State Rep. Park Cannon (second photo), who has made fighting HIV/AIDS one of her main issues, said she was “heartened” to hear about Trump’s plan.
“Since the unexpected dissolution of President Obama’s Advisory Committee on HIV, various affected communities have watched with concern as states and cities like New York have come to take the lead on the provision of housing, wraparound services, testing and self-funding this fight,” she told Project Q. “In Atlanta, we are committed to serving and supporting families touched by HIV/AIDS and associated issues.”
“Now that we are in the 50th year since the riots at Stonewall, the LGBTQ+ community will not be removed from this conversation by anyone,” she added.
Several activists called for increases in funding for treatment and prevention, especially as it relates to paying for PrEP, a course of drugs taken by HIV-negative people to reduce the risk of infection.
Public health officials on Wednesday’s press call wouldn’t specify how much of a budget increase the plan will require.
Michael Weinstein, president of AID Atlanta-parent AIDS Healthcare Foundation, praised Trump’s plan.
“We applaud President Trump’s commitment to fight HIV/AIDS and eliminate the HIV epidemic in the U.S. by the end of this decade,” he said in a press release. “As the largest HIV/AIDS organization in the world, AHF stands ready to partner in this daunting effort.”
Trump photo via Wikimedia Commons