Trump Taps Pence To Lead Coronavirus Task Force — Even Though An HIV Outbreak Spread Under His Watch In Indiana

On Wednesday evening, during a news conference featuring himself and several health experts, President Donald Trump announced the formation of a task force in order to address the future possibilities of the spread of coronavirus in the United States.

“As most of you know, the level [of coronavirus infections] that we’ve had in our country is low, and those people are getting better,” Trump said.

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He cited 15 individuals who have the disease, although he left out from his totals dozens of Americans who have been infected overseas who have returned to the U.S.

In his remarks, Trump also announced the formation of a coronavirus task force. The president said that Vice President Mike Pence would head the group.

Pence will “report back to me. He has a certain talent for this,” Trump said.

Not all of that experience has been positive.

Long before he was vice president, Pence was governor of Indiana. During that time, an outbreak of HIV occurred in a rural county in his state. In an area where the population was just 24,000, The Nation reported, 215 people were infected with the disease — close to 1 in 100 residents.

There were two problems with Pence’s leadership at the time that resulted in more people being infected than should have been. First, budget cuts that Pence and Republicans passed in 2013 forced the closure of testing sites in the state. Had they remained open, it’s possible that the outbreak of HIV could have been noticed far earlier than when it was.

Second, when the outbreak was noticed, it was suggested that a needle-exchange program could be utilized to reduce the spread further. Pence dragged his feet on supporting the program. Eventually, months later, he prayed on it, and supported a “limited” needle program, one that was seen as pointless as it punished those who took part in it.

Pence was against needle exchanges as his conservative beliefs said they didn’t work. The evidence suggests the contrary: needle exchange programs not only prevent the spread of disease, but they also don’t encourage an increase in drug activity where they’re implemented.

If some are worried about Pence’s new leadership position on the coronavirus task force, it’s probably because his history of dealing with the spread of diseases in the past hasn’t been stellar. His conservative beliefs prevented him from stopping the spread of HIV — a Yale study concluded had Pence acted earlier, at least 127 infections of the 215 that happened could have been averted.

Hopefully, Pence learned a lesson from his previous experience — and won’t make the same mistake twice, choosing ideology over science to protect Americans from the coronavirus.

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