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National Efforts to End HIV Epidemic Welcome, Must Include Access to Equitable and Nondiscriminatory Healthcare

In his State of the Union address last night, President Trump announced a national campaign to help end the HIV epidemic in the United States by 2030. Equitas Health applauds the announcement and the national discourse that it has begun. For more than three decades we have championed such an announcement and we acknowledge its historic nature.

However, as an early adopter of the Ending the HIV Epidemic in the US: A Roadmap for Federal Action whitepaper and as a supporter of the U = U (Undetectable = Untransmittable) campaign, we understand the necessary work and investment of resources that this will entail. In that vein, we look forward to working with Ohio’s Congressional delegation to ensure that the proper appropriations are allocated to support this national effort and that they are fully supported and implemented by the Trump Administration and the Department of Health and Human Services.

Additionally, while we welcome this national-level commitment to join in efforts to combat HIV, we have some concerns given President Trump and Vice President Pence’s deeply troubling record on HIV/AIDS issues.

The Trump Administration has enacted and continues to propose administrative rules and policies that would undermine the Affordable Care Act, Medicare, and Medicaid—on which nearly all people living with HIV in care in the US rely for affordable and nondiscriminatory healthcare coverage. Most recently, in just the last few months, the Trump Administration has proposed two new administrative rules that will affect access to lifesaving HIV medications under Medicare Part D and will create a license to discriminate against members of the most at-risk and marginalized communities. Putting an end to these troubling policies is a modest first step the Administration must take.

Central to our mission at Equitas Health is providing a pathway to health and well-being for our patients who are at risk of or who are affected by HIV/AIDS. Equitas Health provides care to more than 67,000 individuals each year, nearly 5,200 of whom participate in Ryan White-funded programming, which provides linkage to essential HIV treatment, care, and support services to which they otherwise would not have access. We are committed—as we have been since our organization’s inception—to doing our part to combat the HIV epidemic in the United States.

We welcome President Trump’s involvement in our goal of ending the HIV epidemic, using breakthrough ART, PrEP, and other proven strategies. But it will take more than words, including drastic changes to his policy approach. The science exists to eradicate HIV, but science alone will not get us to our goal. We need equitable access to nondiscriminatory healthcare and safety net programs that support people living with HIV and ensure access to services.