As a gay man living with HIV, I have spent the past few days on edge over the reality of a Trump Presidency. Like many minority groups, there is great fear in my own community from both advocates and lay people living with the virus. The largest fear for us specifically is that many of us, including me, rely on the Affordable Care Act for life saving HIV medications. Donald Trump and The Republican Party have vowed to erase this, which covers MILLIONS of Americans, and replace it with a new plan.
Personally, I couldn’t afford health care even before being diagnosed with HIV due to a pre-existing kidney condition. I now have two pre-existing conditions and a president-elect to worry about. On top of those already daunting conditions, I didn’t have health insurance after I turned 18; the ACA allows young adults to stay on their parents’ health insurance until the age of 26. Trump has vowed to do everything in his power to overturn the ACA, but what does this mean for the 20 million Americans who gained coverage through Obamacare?
It means, if “Trumpcare” (what we’ll call it for now), that there will have to be a pre-existing conditions clause in order for us to afford health insurance. This doesn’t seem too bad right? But if he removes the tax credits from the law, coverage will not be affordable. If Mr. Trump makes health insurance optional, then people will only buy it when they are sick and will cause it to be even more expensive. ( Fun Fact: I require constant medication for my HIV infection to remain at levels that are not transmittable).
The Vice President-Elect, Mike Pence, former Governor of Indiana, was in such denial about HIV/AIDS, he allowed an outbreak to occur while he was in office. He also stated in 2000, that he would like to use Ryan White funding to sponsor Gay Conversion Therapies because he believes HIV is a “gay” disease. The outbreak in Indiana was primarily caused by his refusal to allow needle exchanges during a growing heroine epidemic. He allowed the citizens of Indiana suffer and rubbed salt in their wounds afterwards.
So far Mr. Trump has not come out with a plan of action to come through on his promise of appealing Obamacare, but the future looks kind of grisly at this point in time. With a republican in office, a strong Christian conservative as his vice president, and a republican held House/Senate many scenarios could play out for the community of people living with HIV/AIDS. So now I explore one of those scenarios:
I’m not saying that everyone from the LGBTQIA community will end up in “conversion” style camps, but I am saying that the new administration could possible ignore the HIV/AIDS epidemic with their narrow-minded views. When our community is ignored, people usually die or infection rates soar, as illustrated during the Reagan Administration when the epidemic began.
If health insurance is too high for most of us to afford, there are programs available at this time. If the budgets are cut too much, which Mr. Trump promised “so many, many cuts”, then we are in deeper trouble. Without affordable care, budgets that can’t keep up, and a rise in stigma from a lack of education and bigotry, many are going to fall through the cracks. Many more could become infected, especially with the rise of heroine-use in suburban America. Many are going to live in fear, silence, and under a heavier burden of stigma.
It’s very unlikely that Ryan White will be done away with, it has been supported by both parties and many states rely on it. It could suffer greatly from budget cuts, but it’s extremely hard to believe that it would go away all together. PEPFAR, The President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, another program for HIV/AIDS that was started by President Bush will more than likely stay in place, but can suffer from budget cuts.
As I said, this is just one scenario that I have come up with. Let’s hope that Mr. Trump paid attention in health class and economics because the US already has enough issues with its HIV epidemic that it is struggling to deal with.
What can I do? Get involved, volunteer, support grassroots organizations, but most importantly Vote in 2018 because it’s an opportunity to better help those living with HIV as well as their families.
Act up, Act out. Silence=Death.