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Trump vows to end HIV spread within 10 years, critics skeptical

09 February 2019

A recent proposal made by Trump on the reform of Medicare would dismantle most of protections for people living with serious conditions, like HIV and may threaten to "reignite the domestic epidemic as opposed to positioning us to end it", according to the AIDS United. In a blog post released in concert with the State of the Union, HHS Secretary Alex Azar outlined the administration's plan to end the HIV epidemic, which will mirror its plan for combatting the opioid epidemic by providing targeted investment and resources for the 48 US counties (along with Washington, D.C. and San Juan, Puerto Rico) that contain more than half of newly diagnosed HIV cases, along with seven states where the epidemic is heavily impacting rural areas. The government has "been trying to address HIV, but never in such a focussed way", he said.

During his tenure as attorney general under former President George H.W. Bush, Mr. Trump's pick for attorney general, William Barr, oversaw a program that sent some 12,000 Haitian asylum seekers to Guantanamo Bay, effectively creating what one detractor called "the world's first HIV detention camp".

While Azar said significant new funding would be included in the president's budget, he also emphasised that the campaign is about making more efficient use of existing programmes like the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Programme, which provides medical care and support services. 'This is about execution'. It includes curbing the speed of latent infections by recurrently testing people who find themselves at extreme danger, providing them medicine known as PrEP to stop an infection and beginning individuals on virus-suppressing medication instantly after prognosis.

Azar said new infections were "highly concentrated among men who have sex with men; minorities, especially African-Americans and American Indians and Alaska Natives; and those who live in the Southern United States".

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"It showed we had a very geographically focused outbreak, that if we could augment the capacity of those 48 counties to respond to new infections we could drastically reduce the number of new infections", he said.

Researchers noted that will require working with groups that often shun health services, including injectable drug users.

"Trust is a crucial weapon in our fight to eradicate HIV and it's necessary to encourage people from marginalised groups to get tested", said HIV researcher at Johns Hopkins University Dr Albert Wu. Hardy said any meaningful policy to lower HIV infections would have to target interventions that expand care for LGBTQ individuals since gay and bisexual men account for almost 70% of new HIV infections, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Over 1 million Americans are now living with HIV. Based on what we have seen so far, it seems as if a good deal of the administration's plan is reflective of the community-driven roadmap to end the HIV epidemic in the U.S.by 2025 that was developed by AIDS United and the Act Now: End AIDS coalition and endorsed by over 250 HIV service organizations late past year.

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William McColl of AIDS United said the Trump administration's goal is 'very doable, ' based on now available technology and trends.

"If Trump was actually interested in helping AIDS victims he would embrace universal health insurance to treat AIDS sufferers, a policy he actively works against", Richardson said.

'There was a recognition that we were facing a unique and historic moment where all the strands were coming together, ' said Azar.

"He's just throwing ideas into the wind so the media gobbles them up in the hope it distracts them away from his possible impeachment", said Richardson, a policy analyst on Capitol Hill in the 1980s. That's a dramatic reduction from the crisis years of the AIDS epidemic, but progress has stalled.

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Trump vows to end HIV spread within 10 years, critics skeptical