On World AIDS Day, advocates rally outside the White House, urge President Trump to not surrender the fight against AIDS

WASHINGTON — Today, AIDS and global health advocates gathered outside the White House to mark World AIDS Day and urge President Trump to not trade the iconic red ribbon for a white flag of surrender against the disease.

Download the photos here, here and here.

The rally, which featured activists holding a giant white flag of surrender against the backdrop of the iconic red ribbon that hangs annually from the North Portico on World AIDS Day, comes on the heels of the Trump Administration’s proposed budget cut of $800 million to bilateral HIV/AIDS efforts, which would require a new strategy that would stop adding people to treatment in the hardest-hit countries and trigger a resurgence of the epidemic.

“For the first time in 15 years, the U.S. government appears ready to trade the iconic red ribbon for a white flag of surrender. As the world is turning the tide on AIDS, the United States must not abandon this historic opportunity to end the AIDS epidemic as a global health threat by 2030,” said Tom Hart, North American Executive Director, The ONE Campaign. “It is only with sustained U.S. leadership that we will see a day when HIV/AIDS is defeated. Slowing down now would not simply lengthen the time it takes to do this, but would push it out of reach, potentially forever. So what’s our message to the White House? Now is not the time for the United States to be cutting life-saving HIV/AIDS efforts – including PEPFAR and The Global Fund. America must continue to channel its ingenuity, resourcefulness and generosity to lead the world in the global fight against this deadly disease.”

Earlier this week, The ONE Campaign released a new report detailing the impacts of the White House’s proposed budget cut on the global HIV/AIDS fight. Among the toplines of the 2017 ONE AIDS Report:

  • The Trump Administration’s proposed cut of $800 million from bilateral HIV/AIDS efforts — including PEPFAR — would force PEPFAR to implement a strategy that could lead to 4 million deaths and 26 million new HIV infections in sub-Saharan Africa over the next 15 years. That works out to more than 790 deaths and 4,800 new infections each day.
  • The Trump Administration’s proposed cut of $800 million from bilateral HIV/AIDS efforts — including PEPFAR — would lead to nearly 200,000 additional new HIV infections in the first year of implementation, and nearly 600,000 additional new infections by 2020. Three years at this funding level would set global progress back nine years.
  • Nearly half of all people living with HIV without access to treatment live in countries whose bilateral AIDS assistance would be cut under the Trump Administration’s budget proposal. In all, President Trump’s budget request eliminates funding for seven PEPFAR partner- countries — Brazil, Djibouti, Liberia, Mali, Nepal, Senegal, and Sierra Leone — and reduces funding for 17 others — Afghanistan, Angola, Barbados and Eastern Caribbean, Burma, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Mozambique, Namibia, Papua New Guinea, South Africa, Ukraine and Zimbabwe.
  • The world needs to increase the number of people on treatment by 2030 to get sufficiently ahead of the AIDS epidemic before the population of young adults (aged 15-24) in sub-Saharan Africa doubles in 2050. President Trump’s budget would require a strategy for PEPFAR that would reduce the number of people added to treatment each year such that it would fall 3.4 million short of the 2020 target of 30 million people on treatment.

Today’s rally is just another example of the global health community’s strong opposition to the Executive Branch’s AIDS funding proposal. On Wednesday, over 35 of the nation’s leading AIDS and global health advocacy organizations sent a letter to Congress warning them that America’s commitment to ending AIDS appears to be waning and calling on Congress to continue the United States’ leadership in response to this epidemic.

“We are writing to sound the alarm,” the letter reads. “We have profound concern about the direction the Executive Branch appears to be taking the global response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. The Administration’s FY 2018 budget proposal and the State Department’s new strategy for PEPFAR have caused us to doubt the White House’s commitment to fighting the epidemic. It is critical that Congress continues to fund PEPFAR and the Global Fund to — at least — the level at which it operated in 2017. It is critical that Congress insists that the Administration fulfills the U.S. commitment to the Global Fund, and that funding for both programs does not come at the expensive of other effective humanitarian and development assistance, which work together to serve the common goal to building a healthier, safer, more prosperous world. And PEPFAR must be allowed to pursue a strategy ambitious enough to help the world get 30 million people on treatment and to reduce the number of new infections per year to 500,000 by 2020.”

The full letter is available here.

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