Today, December 1st, is World AIDS Day, a day to both celebrate the progress that has been made and, critically, to unite in the ongoing fight to end HIV/AIDS. This year marks the first World AIDS Day of the Trump administration, an opportune time to reflect on how this administration’s policies and priorities have impacted U.S. efforts to address HIV.
To ultimately end the epidemic, sustained investment in the support, care and treatment of those living with the disease, as well as in prevention of the spread of the disease, is needed. The United States has long been the leader on these issues through significant investments in PEPFAR and The Global Fund, which have prevented countless infections and saved millions of lives around the world. However, under the Trump administration, dedication to the fight against HIV appears to be diminishing, as they have proposed significant funding cuts and a new PEPFAR strategy that would drastically impact future HIV programs and those they serve, particularly in terms of prevention. It’s now up to bipartisan champions in Congress to ensure that funding for these programs is maintained.
In addition to proposed funding and strategy shifts that fail to adequately address prevention of transmission of HIV, prevention efforts are likely to be further hampered by the Trump administration’s persistent attacks on family planning and sexual and reproductive health and rights. PEPFAR, The Global Fund and other experts have all recognized that family planning and the integration of these services with HIV services plays an important role in reducing transmission of the disease. Despite this consensus, as well as other demonstrated health, economic and gender equality benefits, the administration suggested that the U.S. international family planning program, which often works closely with PEPFAR programs, could be eliminated. Although Congress flatly rejected this proposal, the President was able to use his authority to eliminate funding to UNFPA, another important player working to ensure that women and girls have access to critical sexual and reproductive health services with integrated HIV services which prevent transmission.
Furthermore, the most egregious action taken by the President was his decision to reimpose the harmful Global Gag Rule and dramatically expanded its reach, extending the policy to all global health assistance–including HIV assistance. This policy is likely to cause shortages in contraceptives and other health supplies, and force clinics to close in the coming months and years.
Check out our new policy brief to learn more about the importance of HIV and family planning integration, the challenges facing these efforts under the current administration and recommendations of how to address these challenges.