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Trump’s CDC Director Has a History with the HIV Epidemic — and It’s Not Great

Welcome to Name Drop, your guide to the faces you’ve suddenly started seeing all over the the news — or those you’re about to hear a lot more about.You might have seen him lurking behind Vice President Pence during an update on the coronavirus or looking on as President Trump downplayed the epidemic, or getting…

Trump’s CDC Director Has a History with the HIV Epidemic — and It’s Not Great

Welcome to Name Drop, your guide to the faces you’ve suddenly started seeing all over the the news — or those you’re about to hear a lot more about.

You might have seen him lurking behind Vice President Pence during an update on the coronavirus or looking on as President Trump downplayed the epidemic, or getting grilled by Congress this week over the government’s botched rollout of test kits. He’s Robert Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the federal agency tasked with responding to the fast-moving outbreak.

He told the congressional hearing Wednesday that “Europe is the new China” in terms of how the virus was getting into the U.S. — hours before Trump announced the travel ban from Europe in his Oval Office address to the nation.

Redfield is no stranger to epidemics: He’s a virologist. When he was announced as the CDC director in 2018, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar cited his pioneering contributions to advancing our understanding of HIV/AIDS.

But some of those contributions were quite controversial.

As the U.S. Army’s chief AIDS researcher in the 1980s, Redfield supported mandatory HIV screening for the military, which kept recruits from serving if they tested positive and led to several active-duty troops being segregated — a practice Redfield defended at the time as necessary to control the AIDS epidemic.

In 1992, the Defense Department investigated Redfield after he was accused of overselling the effects of an experimental HIV vaccine he’d overseen. Though no evidence of misconduct was found, the vaccine ended up failing.

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