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Trump pledges to defeat HIV and childhood cancer

Kadia Tubman
Reporter

In his second State of the Union address, President Trump pledged to “defeat AIDS in America” and fight against childhood cancer.

“In recent years, we have made remarkable progress in the fight against HIV and AIDS,” said Trump. “My budget will ask Democrats and Republicans to make the needed commitment to eliminate the HIV epidemic in the United States within 10 years.”

There are currently over 1.1 million people living in with HIV in the U.S. According to HIV.gov, 1 in 7 Americans carrying the virus don’t know they are infected. People living in Southern states made up over half of new HIV diagnoses in 2016.

Federal funding for AIDS  rose from a few hundred thousand in 1982 to more than $32 billion in 2017, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, a national health nonprofit, although it’s fallen slightly in the last few years.

President Trump acknowledges women in Congress as he delivers his State of the Union address. (Photo: Andrew Harnik/AP)

New members of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS were sworn in last week. Trump fired the previous 16 advisers in January 2018. He has yet to appoint a director of the Office of National AIDS Policy.

“No force in history has done more to advance the human condition than American freedom,” said Trump, who included another public health issue in his 10-year strategy.

“Tonight,” he continued, “I am also asking you to join me in another fight that all Americans can get behind: the fight against childhood cancer.”

Trump introduced 10-year-old Grace Eline who joined first lady Melania Trump in the gallery.

“Every birthday since she was 4, Grace asked her friends to donate to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital,” said Trump. “She did not know that one day she might be a patient herself.”

First lady Melania Trump with cancer survivor Grace Eline at the State of the Union address Tuesday night. (Photo: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

He continued: “Last year, Grace was diagnosed with brain cancer. Immediately, she began radiation treatment. At the same time, she rallied her community and raised more than $40,000 dollars for the fight against cancer.”

Cancer is rare in children but is the leading cause of death — accidents being the first — by disease among children. It was estimated that over 10,000 children younger than 15 would be diagnosed in 2018, with more than 1,000 deaths.

“Many childhood cancers have not seen new therapies in decades,” said Trump. But major advancements in cancer treatment account for an 80 percent survival rate.

In his final State of the Union address, President Barack Obama also charged the nation to combat cancer. “For the loved ones we’ve all lost,” he said, “for the families that we can still save, let’s make America the country that cures cancer once and for all.”

The current federal budget for cancer research is $5.74 billion for the National Cancer Institute, a $79 million increase from 2018. Funds would go to conduct clinical trials and address disparities in access to health care.

“My budget will ask Congress for $500 million over the next 10 years to fund this critical life-saving research,” said Trump.

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