With his re-election campaign well underway, U.S. President Donald Trump raised some eyebrows when he pledged to end the AIDS epidemic and cure childhood cancer if he wins another term in 2020.
During a campaign rally in Cincinnati Thursday night, the president boasted of future medical breakthroughs in the country.
“The things we're doing in our country today, there's never been anything like it. We will be ending the AIDS epidemic shortly in America, and curing childhood cancer very shortly.”
The comments were reminiscent of earlier promises he made during a rally in Orlando, Florida in June. During that speech, Trump said “we will come up with the cures to many, many problems, to many, many diseases — including cancer.” He also vowed to “eradicate AIDS in America.”
The Republican president’s recent remarks signal a return to initiatives he proposed during his State of the Union address in February. In that speech, Trump said his budget would ask Democrats and Republicans to commit to eliminating HIV in the U.S. by 2030.
“We have made incredible strides, incredible,” he said. “Together, we will defeat AIDS in America and beyond.”
The proposed plan called “Ending the HIV Epidemic: A Plan for America” would attempt to reduce new HIV infections by 75 per cent in five years and by 90 per cent in 10 years.
As for the cost of the initiative, the president proposed US$291 million in the budget in order to provide the communities hardest hit by the disease with additional resources, data to track the spread of HIV, and local task forces to support treatment and prevention programs.
While the non-profit news service Kaiser Health News (KHN) called Trump’s goal “doable, but daunting,” experts told the publication that obstacles such as, adequate health insurance, housing assistance, societal stigma, and a surge in injection drug use may make the president’s timeline for the plan difficult to achieve.
“There are a lot of social, structural, individual behavioral factors that may impact why people become infected, may impact if people who are infected engage in care, and may impact or affect people who are at high risk of HIV,” Dr. Kenneth Mayer, medical research director at the Boston LGBT Health Center Fenway Institute, said.
As for curing childhood cancer, Trump said in his State of the Union address that he would set aside $500 million for research into pediatric cancers over the next 10 years.
Although organizations such as the American Cancer Society applauded the investment, KHN questioned how “meaningful the increase is in relation to current federal spending on childhood cancer research.”
According to estimates from the National Institutes of Health, they will spend $462 million on childhood cancer research in 2019, which means $500 million over the next 10 years, or an average of $50 million a year, will amount to a little more than a 10 per cent annual increase.
For comparison, former U.S. president Barack Obama proposed $1 billion for the 2016 and 2017 fiscal years for his “Cancer Moonshot” research initiative during his State of the Union speech in 2016. However, in actuality, Congress changed the amount to $1.8 billion over seven years, or an average of $257 million per year, according to KHN.
What’s more, the $500-million boost to pediatric cancer research for the next fiscal year would be accompanied by an overall cut of nearly $900 million to the National Cancer Institute’s funding after Trump recommended shrinking the federal government agency in his 2020 budget proposal.
The National Cancer Institute is part of the National Institutes of Health and is the primary federal agency conducting cancer research. Medical advocacy groups have questioned how effective the $500-million investment in childhood cancer research would be if overall funding is slashed.
Trump isn’t the only presidential candidate to promise to cure cancer in recent weeks. Former vice-president and Democrat Joe Biden made the same vow during a campaign stop in Iowa in early June.
“I promise you if I'm elected president, you're going to see the single most important thing that changes America,” Biden declared. “We're gonna cure cancer.”
The presidential hopeful, whose eldest son Beau Biden died from brain cancer in 2015, made the remarks a week before Trump followed suit in Orlando.