What we’re reading: A State Department switch, a trip to Africa, and DREAMS deferred?

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Trump ousts Tillerson, will replace him as secretary of state with CIA chief Pompeo – Secretary Rex Tillerson cut short his trip to Africa, this article notes, where he had cancelled an appearance at an event in Kenya highlighting achievements of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief there after learning of his dismissal. We leave “the embattled diplomat” and former oil company executive in a position not far from where we first mentioned him in this blog, when on the panel that put together a 2010 report on “Smart Global Health Policy,” following a study trip to Kenya, he discussed his interest in measurable gains against global infectious diseases, with chances to end the impacts of HIV, and detect, prevent and respond to pandemics to come, hanging in the balance.

Trump administration’s words, deeds on Africa are colliding and On Africa trip, Tillerson blames clearance issues . . . highlight the continuing divide between Trump administration words and deeds regarding PEPFAR, the U.S. flagship response to the HIV pandemic and its accompanying impacts. While Tillerson’s trip to Kenya was intended, in part to highlight PEPFAR successes in saving millions of lives and providing access to antiretroviral medicine that preserves health and prevents transmission, the Washington Post article notes, “HIV/AIDS advocates are scratching their heads at why Trump has repeatedly proposed cutting hundreds of millions of dollars from PEPFAR.” In turn, the Devex article quotes Health GAP, a global treatment access nonprofit, noting that although Congress rejected White House proposed deep cuts to the program and is hoped to do so again, continued flat funding threatens to reverse progress toward controlling the pandemic.

More than 200 scientists, researchers and clinicians, including the co-discoverer of HIV denounce Trump Administration policies that undermine the global HIV response – This letter, released at the March 3-7 Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections, throws the weight of those fighting the HIV pandemic on its front lines — some since the beginning — behind the fears of lost progress and lost lives, delineating the impacts of proposals and policies ushered in by the Trump administration. Those include proposed cuts to PEPFAR and the National Institutes of Health, the expanded “Mexico City Policy” barring U.S. funding from overseas programs providing health services that include abortion counseling or referrals, and the proposal of a Protecting Statutory Conscience Rights in Health Care order, that would protect health workers who refuse to provide services.

What happens to DREAMS deferred? The photo here accompanies a story about Tillerson’s missed visit to an event in Kenya celebrating the accomplishment of DREAMS, a PEPFAR program protecting adolescent girls and women from HIV infection.

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