The Future of Haiti

Haitian doctors in residence study a X-ray while doing rounds of patients with doctors from the Northern Arizona Volunteer Medical Corps during a trip the team from Flagstaff took to Haiti in December.

Jake Bacon, Arizona Daily Sun

And the hits just keep on coming. And by hits we mean the insults, negative stereotypes and willful ignorance in which the Trump administration continues to traffic.

Last week, the New York Times reported that, in June, President Trump said that thousands of Haitians, apparently bound for the United States, "all have AIDS."

Given the decline of the disease that was unfairly tied to the people of Haiti three decades ago, Trump is wrong, as he has been before.

Here are the facts about Haitians and AIDS: According to UNAIDS, an estimated 150,000 adults on the island are living with HIV/AIDS. And there were 7,900 new cases last year. In all, about 2 percent of Haiti's people have HIV/AIDS. Haiti has a population of about 10.8 million.

The incidence of HIV/AIDS in Haiti remains troubling. But the numbers are also encouraging, for they represent a decline in the prevalence of a disease that decades ago ravaged and killed thousands, but unfairly stigmatized an entire immigrant population in South Florida and elsewhere.

Education and healthcare initiatives deserve credit. So, too, do U.S. funding specifically tied to eliminating AIDS and the work of GHESKIO, the largest AIDS clinic in the Caribbean. According to UNAIDS, HIV cases and AIDS-related deaths in Haiti have fallen by about 25 percent since 2010, when the earthquake interrupted some efforts.

The administration has vehemently denied that Trump insulted Haitians. Forgive us for having doubts. The offensive comments sound ever so Trumpian, overblown and, when stated publicly, calculated to strike fear in the hearts of his ardent _ and fact averse _ supporters:

Mexico is "sending people that have lots of problems and they're bringing those problems. They're bringing drugs, they're bringing crime. They're rapists and some, I assume, are good people."

And, "As has been stated continuously in the press, people are pouring across our borders unabated. Public reports routinely state great amounts of crime are being committed by illegal immigrants."

Crime, indeed, is something to decry. Still, Trump clearly finds it easier _ and a winning strategy, unfortunately _ to make blanket, dehumanizing statements about some foreigners.

With his loaded accusation, Trump is harking back to 1983 and the early days of the AIDS epidemic, when the Center for Disease Control announced that there were four major risk groups for AIDS in the United States _ homosexuals, hemophiliacs, heroin users and Haitians.

The CDC acknowledged that each of the four groups contained many individuals who were not at risk for AIDS. However, those exceptions meant little to the public. And Haitians were the only group listed based on nationality rather than specific behavioral factors.

In 1985, Haitians, as a whole, were removed from the CDC's report. But the damage was done, taking decades to undo.

But Trump saw fit to remind us. To what end?

As the president's concern about AIDS in Haiti appears to go no deeper than a wrong-headed insult, it's no surprise that his proposed federal budget cuts $222 million from the U.S. contribution to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB & Malaria.

Just another uninformed insult from a tone-deaf administration. Again, only the facts can undo the damage it continues to do.

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