Our leaders must listen to science

Late last week, the world learned that President Donald Trump had been diagnosed with COVID-19. Over the course of the next few days following this announcement, several White House aides and staffers, members of Congress and other officials who attended the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett have been diagnosed with COVID-19.

As our president and CEO Jesse Milan stated:

“Those of us living with HIV know all too well the surprise, fear and personal reflection that come with a positive test result. A positive HIV test result is no longer a death sentence thanks to effective treatment options. But severe illness and death are very possible from COVID-19. President Ronald Reagan ignored the HIV epidemic in the early days. Thousands needlessly suffered and died because he ignored science. Our message has always been to let science lead.”

We have all hoped that the president would let science lead. Many of us thought this would be the push for President Donald Trump to take COVID-19 seriously, to listen to science, public health officials — and to take action to limit the spread of COVID-19 and provide relief to the millions suffering from the pandemics impacts.

However, the president has continually selected to listen to science only when it benefits him personally. The president says that there is nothing to fear when it comes to COVID-19, though he has a team of doctors ready at a moment’s notice, does not have to worry about accessing medical care, and has no concerns about how he will pay for the best treatment in the country.

Americans across the country currently do not have this privilege as thousands have lost their employer covered insurance as a result of job loss during the pandemic. Others may have not even had insurance prior to the pandemic because they don’t qualify for Medicaid in states that opted out of Medicaid expansion. Thousands more have limited access to necessary care whether they are unable to afford the cost of the visit, transportation, or live in rural areas.

Even with all of his  privilege, the president has continued to endanger his staff, his aides and members of the general public. Instead of abiding by the rules of quarantine, the president decided to leave the Presidential Suite in Walter Reed National Military Medical Center to take a ride to wave at his supporters. This not only endangered the staff at Walter Reed, but it put his own Secret Service team at risk.

Delayed reactions and slow responses have thus far resulted in more than 7.5 million COVID-19 cases and more than 210,000 deaths in the United States alone. Millions have suffered and thousands have died because this president has ignored science.

COVID-19 relief should not be a political pawn when lives are at stake. People living with HIV have waited long enough for action from Congress. To take action on this matter, write your congressional leaders to demand action.

We need to let science lead our policy response to this pandemic. But for science to lead, we need leaders who listen to science.