What's at Stake in Trump's America? HIV Community Leaders Share Their Opinions

Waldemarus for iStock via Thinkstock

By Election Day Nov. 8, after an eventful primary season and a noxious election cycle, it seemed that most HIV advocates were ready to get to work with a soon-to-be President-elect Hillary Clinton's soon-to-be administration, to continue the pioneering work activists forged under President Obama in addressing HIV in the U.S.

Then the unthinkable happened. In the wee hours of Nov. 9, Donald J. Trump was declared the president-elect of the United States.

Through the devastation, sadness, terror, rage and triggering of past trauma that resulted from facing the reality of a president who "wears his racism, xenophobia and misogyny on his chest like badges of honor," organizations and individuals in the HIV community began to share their perspectives, plans, wisdom and encouragement with their wounded constituencies.

Keep checking this page, as we will continue to incorporate new statements and opinion pieces on the election as they are published on TheBody.com.

Some recurring themes:

Acknowledging the Depth of Defeat

"A demagogue who has pledged to destroy our communities and campaigned on open and enthusiastic contempt for our lives -- as transgender people, as people of color, as people of different faiths and abilities and citizenship status -- has been elected to the highest office in our country." -- Kris Hayashi, Transgender Law Center, "We Survive. We Resist"

"I do think we should acknowledge that this is the worst electoral defeat for the moderate democratic coalition of our lifetime." -- William McColl, AIDS United, "HIV Under Trump: Policy Analyst on What Stays, What's Cut"

"Do not listen when someone tells you it will all be OK. It will not. For people living with HIV and those that advocate alongside them, a Trump White House coupled with a Republican-controlled Congress is nothing less than a waking nightmare." -- Drew Gibson, "In a Trump Presidency, Portents of Stigma and Sickness for People Living With HIV"

"I can't imagine Donald Trump, a man who has been accused and sued by the federal government for his racist and xenophobic practices, having the capacity to sit with me at the table and discuss the needs of my community. ...

"[Trump's vice president and transition team leader] Mike Pence has had a history of being against the LGBTQ community during his tenure as a candidate and a political official." -- George M. Johnson, "Waking Up in a Country Where the President-Elect Has No HIV Strategy"

"Rolling back gay marriage and reproductive rights are also on the agenda. We can fully expect increased federal assault on immigrants and cities and states that protect them." -- Charles King, Housing Works, "Reflections From Housing Works CEO Charles King on the Election"

Balancing What Has Changed With What Will Not

"Resistance in the face of terror is nothing new for our communities. Our bodies are transgressive: black, brown, and otherwise pigmented; queer; HIV-containing; border-crossing." -- Positive Women's Network - USA, "I (Still) Believe That We Will Win"

"We still live in a very divided nation -- divided by politics, race, class, gender, generation and geography. ... The challenges facing the working-class and poor Americans -- who were completely ignored this election season -- are overwhelming. And the difficulties of providing health care to all -- including the possibility of ending the AIDS epidemic -- still loom large." -- Phill Wilson, Black AIDS Institute, "Working the Grief, Pain, Fear and Anger of the 2016 Presidential Election"

"The Ryan White Program will remain in place. ... The President's Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) is bipartisan and considered to be one of President Bush's main achievements, so that seems likely to stay in place.

"Funding for fighting the opioid epidemic will likely remain in place, although some of the funding may shift away from treatment and toward law enforcement.

"[Though the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will be repealed, s]ome popular elements may remain ... Probably they will have to retain the prohibition on denying coverage of pre-existing conditions." -- William McColl

"Last week ... a collective of community organizations and AIDS service providers came together to celebrate survival and connection ... . The room was filled with people from different communities in the Bay Area, many of whom in earlier decades of the epidemic might have struggled to organize with each other, cautious about each other's identities and in competition for limited funding and resources. We talked easily about treatment access and how different communities could support each other. ...

"[T]here are moments of hope, both explicit and subversive." -- Keiko Lane, "Anticipating Trump, an HIV Psychotherapist Considers Long-Term Survival and Solidarity"

Drawing Strength From Collective Power

"The U.S. election results imperil the social, political and legal progress made over the last few decades by HIV, harm reduction, sex worker, drug user and LGBTQ activists and communities. As such, we will redouble our efforts in promotion of evidence- and rights-based HIV interventions." -- Global Network of People Living With HIV, "Global Key Population Networks Stand in Solidarity With U.S. Activists"

"We are a community forged by worse adversity than we face today. We remain radically inclusive, knowing that inclusion increases all of us. We choose love, not hate. We choose hope, not fear. And together we stand in the light and invite others to join us. Our journey for social justice and health equity just became a bit steeper, and we have much work ahead. But we have come too far to turn back now." -- Charles King

"It is unthinkably cruel that we who have survived so much hatred and violence woke up this morning to a society further emboldened to target and demean us. But we are resilient. We are brilliant and beautiful and powerful. We have a legacy of fierce trans leaders whose work we build on. We will continue our work of fighting for liberation, and I believe that we will win." -- Kris Hayashi

"It is important for all of us -- particularly those of us who feel the most pain at this moment -- to find a way to communicate that we have a shared pain and that America is stronger, healthier and more prosperous when we resist efforts to relieve suffering by inflicting suffering on others. America is great when we raise all boats." -- Phill Wilson

Next Steps

"Harlem United was founded at the height of the AIDS crisis, when our government shamefully turned a blind eye to the very communities we continue to serve today. Just as we did then, we will organize, advocate, and empower those we serve to be the primary voice at all levels of government." -- Jacqui Kilmer, Harlem United, "The Results Are In. Now What?"

"This was the message [Carlos del Rio, M.D.,] had for the nurses in the audience: We're going to have to work with the new administration. And we're going to have to speak to them in a language they might hear. ...

"'For our patients, for our country, we cannot just say everything's going to go to hell,' he said. 'This is not a matter of putting our heads down and saying, OK, let's do something in four years.'" - Heather Boerner, "'We Have Work Before Us, People': HIV Nurses Meet, Mourn and Prepare to Fight in Wake of U.S. Election"

"The community will need to up our messaging game, and we're going to have to prepare to fight. ... [We] will need to rethink our relationship to insurance and marketplaces. This may be an opportunity to regroup and start pushing for universal coverage sometime in the near future." -- William McColl

"[I]t is impossible to overstate how important the Ryan White Care Act is to the health of people living with HIV in America. Now, more than ever, it is incumbent upon us to defend the Ryan White Program with every ounce of energy at our disposal. Without the ACA, the Ryan White Program will be the primary safety net for hundreds of thousands of people living with HIV." -- AIDS United, "HIV Advocates Face Challenges New and Old After Stunning U.S. Elections"

"The time is now to mobilize and make our demands to this new administration to ensure that our rights and freedoms are not trampled at the expense of our health.

"So, Trump and Pence: You better get it right, because the HIV community knows how to ACT UP." -- George M. Johnson

"[W]e talk about fighting back. We know how to do it. And that's the unspoken shadow anxiety about the stakes of this fight. There's been a lot of talk already about 'we've been through this before and we've survived; we can do it again.' Queers, people of color communities and long-term survivors, especially, have honed the skills of fighting back. But with fighting back comes grieving. Because we will not all get to be long-term survivors.

"We don't all survive. We won't all survive this. Our lives are at stake." -- Keiko Lane

Taking Care of Ourselves

"I am struggling with a strong sense of alienation from half of my fellow citizens who feel (finally?) a freedom to hurl hatred and bigotry towards me and to project onto me and 'the other' their fears and frustrations.

"The very personal nature of the election has been tremendously challenging, but these tools help me sustain my emotional resilience." -- David Fawcett, Ph.D., LCSW, "Emotional Survival Skills for Dangerous Times"

"If we can make an effort to be gentle and compassionate to each other, that will help our community move through this. ... I really encourage folks not to make any major life changes or decisions [such as moving to Canada] or financial transactions in the next week or two till you have your bearings and can make them mindfully and thoughtfully." -- Damon L. Jacobs, LMFT, "Damon Jacobs on Coping the Day After Trump's Victory" (videos)

Dismantling Systems of Oppression ... ?

"We have always known that a large element of racism is rooted deeply in our land. Similarly, Donald Trump did not invent misogyny. Sexism and its offshoots of homophobia and transphobia have not gone away even if we can point to incremental progress. And when our country becomes afraid, we always reach to xenophobia directed toward our most recent immigrants. But too often we turn our heads and convince ourselves that this really doesn't affect us. After last night, our denial has been stripped away." -- Charles King

There is little doubt that white supremacy won on Nov. 8: the explicit variety displayed in celebratory Ku Klux Klan rallies and Breitbart "News" coverage, as well as the insidious system that has fueled interpersonal as well as state violence in this country since its inception. As Trump's success proves yet again, these oppressive systems and practices do not vanish just because we will it to be so.

"[W]e have benefited from the same white supremacy we are now (rightly) protesting, whether we asked to or not." -- Jennie Smith-Camejo, "Dear White People: It's Time to Stand in Our Discomfort"

"[I]t is not enough to protest in the streets while we allow the institutions we work for and that purport to serve us to perpetuate the same oppressions we are fighting in our governmental institutions. We must actively work to combat racist, misogynistic and patriarchal practices within institutions and organizations, while we fight state-sanctioned violence." -- Positive Women's Network - USA

"I call on the organizations reading this to look in the mirror and honestly assess how they have tackled diversity, how they treat people and how they have engaged people of color. I say it's more than having a token man who has sex with men, a trans person and young person on staff at minimum wage. ... It's changing the culture at the top and bringing in people from the community who know it. It's understanding how actions can be paternalistic and disrespectful. It's understanding and addressing one's own biases and bigotry and privilege. ... It's about understanding that, as we go into 2017, what was can no longer be the norm." -- Art Jackson, "Structural Inequality Within HIV/AIDS Service Organizations Must End"

"We now must be even more deeply and actively invested in each other's survival," writes Keiko Lane. "And there is fear and the question of whether people will be invested in ours."