Donald Trump’s announcement that Vice President Pence would head up U.S. efforts against the spread of the coronavirus caused many to raise eyebrows given Pence’s woeful handling of one of the biggest HIV outbreaks in Indiana’s history.
From the Washington Post:
“He’s got a certain talent for this,” Trump said at a White House briefing about the virus, which has infected nearly five dozen people in the United States so far.
The announcement has cast light on Pence’s record as a lawmaker and his handling of a major public health crisis during his time as governor of Indiana. The worst HIV outbreak in the state’s history happened on his watch in 2015, which critics blamed on Pence’s belated response and his opposition to authorizing a needle-exchange program.
In 2011, as a member of Congress, he voted to cut funding for Planned Parenthood. Two years later, a Planned Parenthood clinic that had been the only HIV-testing center in Scott County, Ind., closed after public health spending cuts, HuffPost reported.
Two months passed from the start of the outbreak in 2015 before Pence declared a public state of emergency.
Pence’s solution for the HIV outbreak was to turn to prayer.
It wasn’t until after 75 more people were diagnosed as HIV+ that Pence finally allowed a 30-day needle exchange program to be implemented.
Pence also opposed condom distribution to combat HIV. That led, in part, to his overseeing the defunding of Planned Parenthood in Indiana. As a result, the Planned Parenthood clinic in Scott County, which housed the county’s only HIV testing center, closed in 2013.
But this is the guy to spearhead the federal government’s response to a worldwide virus…?
Sen. Bernie Sanders weighed in on the choice of Pence via Twitter:
Trump's plan for the coronavirus so far:
-Cut winter heating assistance for the poor
-Have VP Pence, who wanted to "pray away" HIV epidemic, oversee the response
-Let ex-pharma lobbyist Alex Azar refuse to guarantee affordable vaccines to all
— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) February 27, 2020