What does the Trump Administration Mean for Global Health Policy?

January 10, 2017

An HIV Policy Expert Explains What Trump’s HIV Policy Might Look Like
Posted on    December 17, 2016
Daniel Villarreal
Senior Editor @ Unicorn Booty
Ben Plumley, Pangea, CEO

Ben Plumley, CEO of Pangea
It’s hard to know exactly what President-elect Trump has planned for his administration’s HIV policy because his website makes no mention of it — an alarming omission considering that there’s 1.2 million Americans and 36.7 million world citizens currently living with HIV. So we talked to Ben Plumley, Chief Executive Officer of Pangaea, an international HIV organization that works with funders and national governments to help at-risk populations — like men who have sex with men (MSM), drug users, sex workers, incarcerated populations, teenage girls and young women — get equitable access to HIV prevention, testing, treatment and care.

Although Pangea works internationally with international funders and governments, Plumley says, they promote evidence-based approaches to HIV reduction that scale to the community’s needs and value their human rights.

“Human-rights-based approaches are ones centered on giving people the tools to manage their own health. If you’re going to manage your health around HIV risk, you need to be as free as possible from the stigma associated with being [an at-risk population]. … If you persecute and criminalize behaviors and natures, then you drive the epidemic underground and you lose all hope of containing it. All it does is make it harder to reach people … harder to make information available on ways to minimize HIV infection. Apart from being morally wrong, it’s profoundly counterproductive.”

During our conversation, we focused on three areas: 1) how Trump’s nationalism might affect his global HIV policy, 2) his Vice President-elect Mike Pence and 3) his Secretaries of State and of Health and Human services, all of which could have an impact on the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), an international aid program created in 2003. It should also be added that Trump’s promise to repeal the Affordable Care Act could end access to HIV-medication for millions of people.

The following interview has been edited for clarity and length.