Trump’s HIV plan met with both cautious optimism, flat-out skepticism

By Tim Fitzsimons

President Donald Trump’s announcement Tuesday of a new federal initiative to “eliminate the HIV epidemic in the United States within 10 years” has sparked both cautious optimism and flat-out skepticism from experts and advocates.

According to an overview released by the Department of Health and Human Services, the proposal overhauls the federal government’s HIV/AIDS plan and brings it more closely in line with cutting-edge models pioneered in places like New York City, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. HIV diagnoses there have fallen sharply, thanks to well-funded public health initiatives that quickly link HIV-positive people to treatment and refer at-risk individuals to take PrEP, or pre-exposure prophylaxis, to prevent them from being infected with HIV.

“The president sees a once-in-a-generation opportunity to end the epidemic, thanks to the most powerful HIV prevention and treatment tools in history, and new tools that allow us to pinpoint where HIV infections are spreading most rapidly,” Health Secretary Alex Azar said in a statement.

While veteran HIV/AIDS public health officials say it is indeed possible to end the epidemic with new tools, others say the devil is in the details — of which there are currently very few.


In a conference call with reporters Wednesday, HHS Assistant Health Secretary Adm. Brett Giroir outlined a four-point plan for driving down new HIV infections by 75 percent in five years and 90 percent by 2029: diagnose, treat, protect, respond.

‘We are going do diagnose all people as early as possible, we are going to treat the infection rapidly and effectively, we are going to protect those at highest risk, we are going to respond to any outbreaks with overwhelming force,” Giroir said.

These goals emphasize “biomedical interventions” — public health lingo for the new methods — beyond condoms, that officials hope can drive down new infections from 40,000 in 2017 to 4,000 by 2030.