It’s now well known across the world that the United States recently elected Donald J. Trump to be its 45th president. Emotions are running high, not only within the HIV community, but also within communities across the globe, as we grapple what the future holds for our country. His presidency came as a surprise to many, especially in light of polls that overwhelmingly favored his opponent, democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, as the projected winner.
I’ll be the first to say that Trump was not my preferred choice for president from either the stance of a born-again Christian or someone living with HIV. This, however, was not the consensus of the Electoral College or of many white evangelical Christians. In fact, white evangelicals make up 25% of the United States population and over 80% voted in favor of the Republican ticket.
It seems that many Christians have forgotten words spoken by Paul in Titus 1:7-8, “Since an overseer manages God’s household, he must be blameless — not overbearing, not quick tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. Rather, he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined.”
We’ve heard over and over this election season that this was bigger than any one candidate but rather about the values we stand for as Americans. As a Christian, I must ask myself, does Donald Trump represent the above-stated values? Many Christians simply vote on one core issue: abortion. While I myself do not agree with abortion except in unique and rare circumstances, I feel that there are many more issues that one must take into account.
The old saying “WWJD” or “what would Jesus do” leaves me shaking my head anytime I hear Trump talk about anything from immigration to poverty. Christians have put nation before kingdom, and that is a big reason why Trump will be our 45th president. I will follow the bible verse in Matthew 22:21 that says, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s,” however, I will also hold Trump accountable for his actions.
From another perspective, as someone living with HIV, it’s frightening this man will be leading our country. It’s really like a blind coin toss with the outcome unknown, as he has not elaborated his views on the subject. With the recent passing of 2016 World AIDS Day, I was hoping to get a glimmer of hope, some shimmer of light that would tell me, “OK Josh, things are going to be all right.” But that didn’t happen.
Instead, we got more of the same response surrounding an issue that personally affects my life: silence. We my as well have heard crickets from the president-elect as, instead of recognizing such an important date, he spent it touring the country on a “thank you” tour that only served to boost his ego. I wasn’t expecting huge recognition. Heck, I would have settled for a simple two-to-three-minute message. The fact is, over 1.2 million in the United States are living with HIV, and your telling me in the last year he couldn’t find the time to mention us even once? Instead of thanking the voters who elected him, how about thanking the long-term survivors who in many cases gave their lives so that I and others living with the virus have the opportunity to live.
Unlike other issues, HIV has lives at stake if he doesn’t get it right. This isn’t a plan that he is simply going to be able to “wing” or piggyback off current strategy. We need a leader who has a clear and concise plan that will address all aspects of the pandemic, both nationally and globally.
We’ve fought too hard to increase funding for prevention and awareness to turn back the wheels of time. While we can’t be certain what the future holds, the silence from the Trump administration and past conservative stances on the issue are unsettling at best. This may not be the nation’s top priority, but it’s my top priority, and I will make sure that the Trump administration, Congress and the Senate know it. These are our lives and we will continue to speak up to ensure the progress we’ve made is not undone.
I urge all Americans to remain vigilant during this presidency. We must not grow complacent or allow yesterday’s news to detour us from our mission for today. While I’m willing to follow the advice of Hillary Clinton and give him a chance, that does not go without limits. It’s going to be a long road ahead of us; however, we must remember the words of Frederick Douglass, who said:
If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom and yet depreciate agitation are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. This struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, and it may be both moral and physical, but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.
God Bless America and may he give us all the wisdom and strength to move forward in the years that follow.