Vice President Mike Pence spoke at a White House event on Thursday, marking World AIDS Day, which takes place on Saturday, where he misrepresented President Trump’s HIV/AIDS record. It also marked the second year in a row where the administration failed to mention LGBTQ people in its remarks honoring a day that still disproportionately affects the community.
Last year, the White House released a statement online, signed by Trump, that also didn’t mention the LGBTQ community, despite mentioning other vulnerable groups.
“And as I begin, let me bring greetings from a friend of mine who is a leader committed to the health and well-being of the American people, and has brought new and renewed American commitment to the fight against HIV/AIDS here and around the world,” Pence said. “I bring greetings from the 45th President of the United States of America, President Donald Trump.”
Pence then said it was the administration’s goal to bring an end to the epidemic, and praised the Ryan White CARE Act, which provides for people living with HIV and AIDS in America, and The President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR, which works to combat the disease abroad, mostly in Africa.
Pence used the event to announce Trump would sign a five-year extension to the program that passed the Senate on Wednesday with bipartisan support. $100 million will go to religious groups working to combat the spread of the disease. The vice president thanked religious leaders in the room for putting “hands and feet on their faith.”
The administration has also moved millions from the Ryan White HIV/AIDS program to put toward housing increasing numbers of immigrant children following crackdowns on undocumented refugees.
One group Trump isn’t getting push back from is the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS, as he fired the remaining members last year after half a dozen quit in protest and he has failed to replace them.
It seems he could have used their knowledge, as his own understanding of the issues seems quite limited, if Bill Gates can be believed. The business magnate and philanthropist said the president has twice asked him the difference between HIV and HPV.
Pence’s record prior to joining the White House is also troubling for advocates, who have noted his initial refusal to lift Indiana’s ban on needle exchanges when he was governor, despite an alarming rise in new cases of HIV linked to the opioid crisis.
He has also pushed for abstinence-only sex education and against the distribution and use of condoms, including in Africa.
In 2002, Pence said in an interview with CNN that then-Secretary of State Colin Powell encouraging young people to use condoms amounted to “a sad day,” calling them “very, very poor protection against sexually transmitted diseases,” and “too modern of an answer.”
Watch Pence deliver his remarks below, or read them on WhiteHouse.gov.