Trump’s Cuts to AIDS-Treatment Programs Would Kill 1 Million, Researchers Say

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Save their lives, or build a border wall? Photo: Marco Longari/AFP/Getty Images

Donald Trump would like for the United States to spend $1.1 billion less on HIV-treatment programs in sub-Saharan Africa, and $524 million less on contraception for the global poor.

On the plus side, these cuts will make it easier to finance the president’s border wall, which he hopes to spend $1.6 billion on in 2018.

On the downside:

At least one million people will die in sub-Saharan Africa and elsewhere, researchers and advocates said on Tuesday, if funding cuts proposed by the Trump administration to global public health programs are enacted.

… With a huge share of Africa’s population reaching sexual maturity in the next four years, the virus could again imperil much of the continent if fewer people are treated, said Brian Honermann, deputy director at amfAR, a foundation that invests in AIDS research.

AIDS treatment not only keeps people alive but prevents them from spreading the virus to others, Mr. Honermann noted. “If you cut the funding by this much, I think there’s a real risk we will backslide, and a whole lot more people will become infected,” he said.

These cuts almost certainly won’t happen. The President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (Pepfar) — America’s primary program for funding HIV treatment — is one of George W. Bush’s (only) signature achievements, and enjoys strong, bipartisan support.

So, it’s tempting to dismiss these eye-popping death-toll estimates as irrelevant — ultimately, the Trump budget is just Mick Mulvaney’s (sloppily executed) math homework, not an actual governing document.

But such nonchalance is wrongheaded. And not only because Trump’s budget functions as an expression of his (monstrous) values.

The president may be unlikely to cut $1 billion from AIDS treatment, but his budget makes it clear that he will not be adding any more money to such programs. And that latter fact is about as morally objectionable as the first.

The Global Fund estimates that every $100 million invested in HIV treatment saves about 133,000 lives. Currently, the United States — the wealthiest country in human history — spends $6 billion annually on AIDS programs. The Pentagon recently spent $125 billion on (what its own internal study deemed) “administrative waste.”

Our nation could easily afford to save hundreds of thousands more people from preventable deaths. When we choose instead to cut taxes for the rich — and/or spend $1 trillion on the F-35 — we are choosing to let them die.

Trump’s Cuts to AIDS-Treatment Would Kill 1 Million