Trump calls for funding for HIV prevention, childhood cancer research at State of the Union

Among other healthcare priorities, Trump stuck with some familiar themes such as drug pricing, but he also indicated plans to strike out in some newer directions such as increased support for childhood cancer research when he submits his budget in the coming weeks. (C-SPAN)

From childhood cancer to prescription drug prices, healthcare got quite a bit of attention during Trump's State of the Union address on Tuesday evening.

Among those topics, Trump announced a new public health initiative aimed at bringing an end to the HIV epidemic in the U.S. 

"In recent years we have made remarkable progress in the fight against HIV and AIDS. Scientific breakthroughs have brought a once-distant dream within reach," Trump said. "My budget will ask Democrats and Republicans to make the needed commitment to eliminate the HIV epidemic in the United States within 10 years. Together, we will defeat AIDS in America."

More specifics are expected in the days ahead, but a statement released by HHS Secretary Alex Azar on Tuesday night offered up some additional details. In particular, the initiative will focus on reducing new infections by 75% in the next five years and by 90% in the next 10 years—an effort that would prevent more than 250,000 infections, he said. 

RELATED: Azar assures HIV patients ‘protected class’ proposal won’t cut off access to drugs

"Within the next 10 years, we have the chance to end the HIV epidemic for the next generation," Azar said. "We can’t afford not to: Without this new intervention, new infections will continue and we face the very real possibility that they will increase, costing more lives and the U.S. government more than $200 billion in direct lifetime medical costs for HIV prevention and medication."

The plan calls for: 

  1. Increasing investments in "geographic hotspots" through existing programs, such as the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program, as well as a new program through community health centers that will provide medicine to protect persons at highest risk from getting HIV.
  2. Using data to identify where HIV is spreading most rapidly to address prevention, care and treatment needs at the local level.
  3. Providing funds for the creation of a local HIV HealthForce in these targeted areas to expand HIV prevention and treatment.

The program would rely on making HIV testing more accessible and routine and establish more funding to ensure that people with new infections have access to proper medications to increase viral suppression to 90%.

They are also seeking to improve access to the PrEP prophylaxis medication, which they say could prevent nearly 50,000 new HIV infections by 2020. They would also increase resources aimed at more rapidly detecting and responding to HIV clusters to stop ongoing transmission. 

Other healthcare priorities

Among other healthcare priorities, Trump stuck with some familiar themes such as drug pricing, but also indicated plans to strike out in some newer directions when he submits his budget in the coming weeks.

Among them: 

  • Childhood cancer: Trump said he planned to ask Congress for $500 million over the next 10 years to fund this "critical lifesaving research" in childhood cancer.
  • Paid family leave: He said he plans to include in his budget a plan for nationwide paid family leave "so that every new parent has the chance to bond with their newborn child." The issue has been a key agenda item for his daughter Ivanka Trump.
  • Abortion: In response to recent laws passed in states like New York, Trump called for Congress to pass legislation to prohibit late-term abortion. The issue is already causing new partisan fights after Senate Democrats blocked a bill brought by Senate Republicans that would have required doctors to give medical attention to babies that have survived attempted abortions.  
  • Drug prices: Continuing his focus on drug prices, Trump said he was asking Congress to pass legislation that takes on "the problem of global freeloading and delivers fairness and price transparency for American patients." Committees in both chambers have recently begun holding hearings on how to address prescription drug prices
  • Surprise billing: He also touched briefly on the theme of surprise billing, which has recently caught the White House's attention in meetings with patients and advocates. "We should also require drug companies, insurance companies, and hospitals to disclose real prices to foster competition and bring costs down," Trump said.