March 24, 2020 | Funding the Fight


Health GAP Fact Checks Trump’s Global AIDS Remarks During COVID-19 Taskforce Briefing

Jessica Bassett: 1 518 593 7628|

Health GAP Fact Checks Trump’s Global AIDS Remarks During COVID-19 Taskforce Briefing 


Context: On Sunday evening, President Trump suggested that he had rejected calls from some in his administration to cut funding for fighting global AIDS [video], saying, in part,

“And I don’t think I’ve ever said ‘No.’ I can’t. It’s just so terrible. Countries that we have really, we’re not involved with them very much, other than, there would be tremendous death, tremendous death. I mean, you can get a list and I could get you a list, we give away billions of dollars to other countries…I started off by saying, ‘You know, we should say we could save a lot of money,’ and then by the time they walk those lists into my office, I say, ‘We have to keep doing that, that’s humanity you’re talking about.’”

Statement from Asia Russell, Executive Director, Health GAP:

“Donald Trump’s response to COVID-19 has been abysmal. He has blood on his hands. Before this crisis, in every budget request Trump has made, he has proposed slashing funding for global AIDS that is needed to strengthen health systems around the world and to save millions of lives. Humanity is not a priority for his administration, allegiance to big pharma and corporate America is. Now he’s taking his ‘private sector or die’ mentality to a new low by refusing to use powers conferred by the Defense Production Act.

“Donald Trump is so afraid of showing government’s power to rapidly save lives that instead of compelling production of the life-saving tools urgently needed, he’s letting nurses, doctors, and other front-line health workers go to battle without protection, refusing to scale up ventilator production, and standing by while pharmaceutical companies exploit this catastrophe to expand their price gouging and harmful monopolies. He is dooming tens of thousands of people to horrific, avoidable deaths. When it comes right down to it, Trump picks ideology over humanity every time.”


  • In four consecutive budgets, Trump has proposed deep, deadly cuts to U.S. global health spending.
  • In January, Trump proposed a 34% cut to the fund that represents the majority of global health assistance, a funding request that was $346 million less than his own draconian budget request made the year before. The President’s FY21 budget request also called for a 32% cut to bilateral HIV funding via the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). The FY21 budget request also slashed global health security funding by 10%, and proposed an 11% cut to funding for tuberculosis, and an 8% cut to funding for malaria.
  • Last year, Trump proposed a 28% cut to the fund that represents the majority of global health assistance, and a 29% cut to bilateral HIV funding via PEPFAR. The FY20 budget request also slashed global health security funding by 35%, and proposed a 14% cut to funding for tuberculosis, and an 11% cut to funding for malaria.
  • Trump’s first budget proposal requested a $1.1 billion cut to global AIDS treatment programs alone, an action that, if taken, would have killed more than 1 million people.
  • Trump’s FDA just handed pharma giant Gilead a 7-year monopoly for remdesivir, a promising treatment for COVID-19, under the orphan drug designation, even though COVID-19 cannot credibly be considered a “rare disease.” Gilead has already benefited from $79 million in taxpayer funding of research on the drug. The FDA move will give Gilead 7 years of marketing exclusivity and bars any generic competition, despite the current global public health emergency.
  • His drastic expansion of the global gag rule has weakened health systems and undermined access to health services.

Activists are calling for: 

  • Access for all:  Any vaccine or treatment must be free, and accessible to all –not restricted based on harmful monopolies.
  • Fund the fights:  Existing funding for the global AIDS response must not be diverted to COVID-19 response efforts, and the epidemic response must be sufficiently funded in all countries.
  • Bailout for people, not corporate giveaways:  All countries must implement bailouts for the people, including freezes on rent, debt forgiveness, cash transfers, and other measures to buffer COVID-19 economic shocks and ensure all people can put public health first while economies freeze.
  • Leave no one behind:  The highest risk settings, where self-isolation is impossible and where background rates of HIV infection, TB, and other chronic illness are higher – such as prisons, jails, and immigration detention centers – must release as many people as possible, immediately, and implement comprehensive prevention and mitigation measures.
  • No human rights violations:  Authoritarian regimes could use this pandemic to crack down on fundamental rights and freedoms. The story of South Korea – where there has been free rapid testing on a massive scale, transparency, and aggressive case finding – shows it is not only harmful but also unnecessary.