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GMHC Statement on the Administration

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Cub Barrett | 212-367-1561 | cubb@gmhc.org

GMHC Statement on the Reported Banning of Specific Words in Administration Budget Documents

The following is a statement from Kelsey Louie, CEO, Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC):

Directives reportedly sent by the current administration to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and other sectors of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that ban the use of seven words or phrases in budget documents are an alarming example of the administration’s focus on placating its conservative base at the expense of good government and public health. The fact that keywords such as “diversity,” “fetus,” “transgender,” “science-based,” and “evidence-based” have been flagged is an assault on the health and well-being of all Americans. This kind of terminology is crucial to proper communications about public health issues and underserved populations. Budget priorities, public policies, and administrative guidelines must be able to accurately reflect diverse populations, health disparities, and science- and evidence-based interventions, or public health initiatives will not be effective.

For example, transgender women have one of the highest prevalence rates of HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C of any subset of the U.S. population. Without the ability to address this community by name, or talk about science- or evidence-based interventions, we cannot adequately mount education, prevention, or treatment campaigns to reach this vulnerable group. Additionally, we know that homophobia and transphobia not only cause health disparities, but also contribute to a lack of equity in accessing basic protections, as well as protections from stigma, discrimination, and even violence.

We have seen the devastating impact of omitting certain words and phrases in government responses to public health issues. More than 30 years ago, homophobia, transphobia, and religious dogma kept the Reagan Administration from following sound public health practices to educate the public about AIDS. Because of this, the government failed to mount a specific campaign targeting diverse communities with explicit and effective public education messages that could have prevented the spread of HIV. This lack of concern for the lives of diverse populations helped contribute to the current state of the AIDS epidemic: 35 million people around the world have died of AIDS-related complications, and 37 million more are living with the virus. In this case, as in so many other public health cases, Silence = Death.

As our World AIDS Day 2017 statement said, facts matter. And in the public health sphere, understanding and communicating facts, as well as using them to help shape lifesaving policies, is fundamental. Politicizing certain words or phrases to score points with a political base is not only foolish, it’s dangerous.

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About Gay Men's Health Crisis: Gay Men's Health Crisis (GMHC) is the world's first HIV/AIDS service organization. GMHC is on the front lines providing services to over 12,000 people living with and affected by HIV/AIDS. Programs include: testing, prevention, nutrition, legal, supportive housing, mental health and substance use services. GMHC also advocates for stronger public policies at the local, state and federal levels with the goal of ending AIDS as an epidemic. For more information, visit  www.gmhc.org.