Whether by design or mere incompetence, the Trump Administration’s modus operandi of divide and conquer is now targeting the HIV community.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has spent over $40 million in just the past two months to take care of the refugee children forcibly separated from their parents by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). On average, taking care of these kids cost the government $800/night per child. Since Congress never authorized this inhumane family separation policy, no funding was allocated.
Where will the money come from? HHS also administers funding for the Ryan White Care Act (RWCA) which is a federally funded program created to provide care and treatment for low-income families living with HIV. RWCA was initially passed by Congress in 1990 and subsequently reauthorized multiple times. It is the third largest federally funded program for HIV treatment after Medicare and Medicaid, with a current budget of almost $2.5 billion. 65% of patients being served are at or below the federal poverty level. Many are uninsured and from communities of color. Nearly half are LGBTI. Currently, 75% of these funds are spent on “core medical services,” such as the AIDS Drug Assistance Programs (ADAP), funded through the RWCA, which is a lifeline for people living with HIV. ADAP provides them with the drugs they need to literally stay alive.
In my immigration law practice in California, almost 90% of our HIV positive clients get their treatment and HIV medications through ADAP via the Gay and Lesbian Center in Los Angeles. Federal law requires the Center to limit the supply of HIV medicines to 30 days at a time and the patients must be examined by one of their physicians at least every 6 months.
Understandably for these clients, panic sets in whenever a visa interview triggers the need for international travel. Clients need to make sure they have an adequate quantity of medication for the usually unpredictable duration of the trip, as unforeseen visa complications may arise.
When it was reported this month that the Trump Administration is planning to use “leftover” RWCA funds to pay for its policy of child separation, alarm bells went off throughout the HIV and immigrant communities. Family separation is not an acceptable policy and paying for it with funds that could be the lifeline that HIV positive clients need is even more reprehensible.
This administration has shown a lack of empathy and compassion for human suffering. Now it appears to be trying to divide the immigrant and HIV communities. As someone who works with members of both communities, I’m telling you this effort will fail. But we need to make sure people know what’s happening. Educate your friends and family about this latest attack on families. Tell Congress to say, “No More” and halt the use of these funds. Force the administration to request money for what they did rather than divert necessary funds in a shell game of inhumanity. Stand up for what’s right.