One of Biden’s first priorities must be addressing another health crisis: HIV and AIDS
BY DAVID JOHNS AND ANGELA YEE, OPINION CONTRIBUTORS
It’s been less than a year since COVID-19 began ravaging the United States, and there are already at least two impressively effective vaccines on the verge of approval and distribution. This is great news in a pandemic that has killed over 300,000 people in the U.S. and over 1.5 million people globally. The response begs the question: Why haven’t we done the same for AIDS, which has killed about 32.7 million people?
Joe Biden has a comprehensive plan for addressing the COVID-19 pandemic, but his incoming administration must also prioritize meaningful, interagency, and multilateral global efforts around HIV/AIDS, so those at highest risk can access the education, resources, and medication needed to prevent or manage the disease. It’s been two decades since the start of the HIV epidemic and it’s beyond time that we take the HIV/AIDS crisis seriously. We need to address its root causes now, before things get even worse.
Like so many other things fundamental to the public’s well-being, the outgoing administration gutted the nation’s HIV/AIDS response. It disbanded an advisory panel in existence since the Reagan years by firing the members that didn’t quit in protest of its lack of compassion for people living with the virus. It cut prevention response in its 2018 budget, and kept the Office of National AIDS Policy vacant.
Though he subsequently resuscitated the advisory panel, and his 2020 budget proposal recommended boosting domestic AIDS response by $291 million — which, pales in comparison to the billions spent on COVID research thus far — Trump simultaneously gutted global outlays, which has the net effect of doing little to nothing to eradicate the virus. By his side, lest we forget, is a vice president who oversaw an HIV spike in Indiana thanks to his reluctance to allow clean needle exchanges in the thick of the opioid crisis.