Last year the Human Rights Campaign released a video highlighting the Vice President’s failures in protecting Americans from HIV, calling him one of the most dangerous individuals when it comes to public health initiatives vis a vis HIV.
“Mike Pence has spent his career putting people in danger by denying them access to HIV prevention and treatment,” said Ashland Johnson, HRC’s Director of Public Education and Research in a statement last year. “From spreading misinformation about condom use, to contributing to a major outbreak of HIV and AIDS in his home state.”
“Pence,” Johnson continued, “has been reckless with the health and lives of those he is sworn to serve, choosing to promote a dangerous ideology overmaking the right decisions for the American people.”
In light of that, the appointment of Pence’s new incoming chief of staff, Marc Short, who wrote a series of virulently homophobic, anti-AIDS, right wing columns in college, is terrifying in its potential impact on HIV policy.
Short, “disparaged people living with HIV and AIDS and claimed that the transmission of the disease was largely the result of ‘repugnant’ homosexual intercourse in an early ’90s column for his college newspaper according to The Daily Beast.
It’s in this context that Short’s subsequent apologies, and suggestion that his college views and have since “evolved” and don’t reflect his current views ring dangerously hollow.
The media mea culpa also obfuscates his role as one of the most powerful behind the scenes Republican Party operatives.
It also suggests that his personal and religious views potentially compromise any objectivity in shaping HIV policy while we are in the midst of a calamitous HIV epidemic among Black gay men in the South, where, “Downtown Atlanta is as bad as Zimbabwe or Harare or Durban [All in Africa],” Dr. Carlos del Rio, the co-director for the Emory Center for AIDS research, said in 2016.
Pence’s “lackluster public health efforts are what led to the defining moment of Pence’s one-term Indiana governorship: a massive HIV outbreak spurred by public health funding cuts and Pence’s moralistic stance against needle exchanges,”reported the Huffington Post in 2016.
In fact Pence’s response to Indiana’s HIV outbreak,” the worst in state history, reads like a plan of what to do if you want to create a public health crisis.”
When the county’s one Planned Parenthood clinic was shut down in 2013, it was in the midst of one of the worst intravenous opioid crisis in the country. People were sharing needles, leading to an explosion in HIV transmissions and no one was getting tested because Scott County’s Planned Parenthood was also the county’s only HIV testing center.
“The number of HIV infections could have been drastically reduced in Indiana’s Scott County and the state’s belated response in March 2015 came after the peak of the epidemic, likely having little effect on its trajectory, reported The Lancet.
Short, like his new boss, is a fundamentalist Christian, who once blamed AIDS on the “repugnant” homosexual lifestyle in his college writings.
Short can stuff his apologies.
As Maya Angelou famously said, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.”
Watch the HRC produced video: The Pence Report: HIV Issues, below.