Jokes about the current administration are coming left and right, from Stephen Colbert and Trevor Noah, but while comedy can ease the anxiety that many in the U.S. and around the world feel about the leadership abilities of President Donald J. Trump, when it comes to HIV/AIDS the laughter certainly must stop. There is no comedy to be wrought from life-and-death matters. When President Trump recently released his administration’s detailed FY 2018 Budget, some of our worst fears were realized. Here is what is on the chopping block: the CDC’s HIV prevention programs, reduced by $149 million or nineteen percent, as well as its STD prevention programs reduced by $27 million or seventeen percent since FY 2016; a complete excision of the Ryan White Program’s AIDS Education and Training Centers (AETC) and the Special Projects of National Significance (SPNS) programs; the removal of the HHS Secretary’s Minority AIDS Initiative Fund; and severe reductions of SAMHSA’s Minority AIDS Initiative programs the Housing Opportunities for People with AIDS (HOPWA) program.
In a prepared release from AIDS United, NASTAD, the National Coalition of STD Directors, NMAC and The AIDS Institute, organizations that are unified in their criticism of the budget proposal, Jesse Milan, Jr., President & CEO of AIDS United stated, “We have seen historic decreases in the number of new HIV infections over the past six years because of sustained investments in prevention, and we have thousands of HIV-positive Americans who have yet to achieve viral suppression through treatment programs. By cutting funding, the work we have done will be reversed, and all the work left to do will falter and put the health of our nation at risk.”
The fight against AIDS has seemingly spiraled back to the eighties, when we had to force our government to wake up and smell the need for lifesaving medications. Over the years we have built an AIDS support infrastructure that works, most of the time. Yes, it could be better at delivering resources to those in need and expanding access to anti-HIV meds and PrEP, but these are much smaller fixes than rectifying the gutting of entire programs! Now is the time to build upon the momentum gained, not put on the brakes. AIDS is not over!
Our cover story subject, Chandi Moore, knows this well. As a health and HIV educator, she sees the difference that disseminating information makes. As A&U’s Larry Buhl finds out in his interview with the I Am Cait star, Moore is determined to use her multiple platforms to amplify her voice: “Fighting for those trans and gender non-conforming, non-binary and queer youth who feel that they have no voice gives me the drive to do all I can.”
Featured in this issue, we have many individuals at work on HIV/AIDS issues in many different fields—Richard Renaldi and Neal Baer in the arts, Julian Lennon and Joshua Castille in advocacy, Ryan McElhose, Cecilia Gentili, and China White in AIDS services. Jack Mackenroth is tirelessly raising funds for Housing Works. Let’s Kick A.S.S.–Portland is empowering HIV long-term survivors. We should not let that work be in vain.
Let us take a moment and borrow some pride from the LGBTQ community. (After all, this is Pride Month.) The AIDS community should be proud of the strides it has made over the years. We are working to secure treatment for all. We are working to destigmatize living with HIV. We are working to reform HIV criminalizations laws. I am proud of our work ethic. Aren’t you?
David Waggoner is Editor in Chief and Publisher of A&U, the first national HIV/AIDS magazine in the U.S.