US Vice President Mike Pence has been branded a “hypocrite” for a World AIDS Day speech in which he only spoke about straight victims of the AIDS crisis.
Pence, a historical opponent of LGBT+ rights, gave a speech in the White House on Thursday ahead of World AIDS Day on December 1.
Thousands of men who have sex with men lost their lives in the AIDS crisis, with homophobic stigma fuelling social and political rejection on the issue.
Pence failed to wear an AIDS ribbon for the speech and also failed to mention gay people or homophobia.
Instead, Pence recalled stories of straight people who contracted HIV/AIDS from contaminated blood and other sources.
Pence also pledged new funding to “faith-based organisations” who he claims are on “the frontline against HIV/AIDS.”
Faith-based efforts to tackle HIV/AIDS have been strongly criticised for failures to reach out to at-risk LGBT+ people, and their advocacy for abstinence-only approaches to HIV prevention over safe sex.
Mike Pence ‘blamed for HIV epidemic’ in Indiana
The speech was strongly criticised by HIV/AIDS activists and LGBT+ groups, many of whom noted Pence’s extreme record on the issue.
In 2000, Pence published an election manifesto calling for HIV/AIDS prevention funding to be drained from “organisations that celebrate and encourage the types of behaviours that facilitate the spreading of the HIV virus,” an apparent reference to LGBT+ inclusive groups. He instead called for funding for “institutions which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behaviour.”
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As a congressman in 2002, Pence attacked the promotion of condoms to prevent HIV infection, claiming they provide “a very, very poor protection” and that a “commitment to abstinence is the best choice for our young people.”
While Pence served as Governor of Indiana from 2013 to 2017, his cuts to HIV testing and ban on needle exchanges led to the worst outbreak of HIV/AIDS in the state’s history, sparking an intervention from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Mike Pence branded ‘hypocrite’ for speech
Chad Griffin of Human Rights Campaign said: “[The speech] is truly the height of hypocrisy. From spreading misinformation about condom use, to contributing to a major outbreak of HIV/AIDS in his home state, Pence has put ideology before the health and lives of countless people.”
He added: “Just look at when Mike Pence was governor of Indiana. Cuts to public health funding helped fuel the worst outbreak of HIV/AIDS in Indiana’s history. The outbreak in Scott County was enabled by the closure of a Planned Parenthood clinic – the county’s only HIV testing center.
“As the outbreak of HIV & AIDS spiraled out of control, Pence was ‘reluctant’ to lift a ban on needle exchanges.
“After the CDC intervened, Pence continued to drag his feet, waiting a year to sign off on funding. Meanwhile, 190 people contracted HIV in Scott County alone.”
Lambda Legal added: “VP Pence addressing the nation to mark World AIDS Day is an absolute charade.
“This administration has done more to turn back the clock on access to health care than any in recent history. But go on, tell us about how you really care about people living with HIV/AIDS, Mike Pence.”
The Trump administration has shuttered the White House’s Office of National AIDS Policy and sacked the entire presidential advisory council on HIV/AIDS.