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Trump’s ‘AIDS vaccine’ gaffe torn apart on social media – but was it really a gaffe?

Trump’s ‘AIDS vaccine’ gaffe torn apart on social media – but was it really a gaffe?
US President Donald Trump is being savaged for praising the government scientists who’d “come up with the AIDS vaccine,” with his haters holding it up as proof of incipient dementia. But it’s not as outlandish as it sounds.

Trump made the remark during a press conference on Tuesday before signing an executive order on police reform, making a momentary diversion to update reporters on the progress towards a vaccine against Covid-19. Predicting researchers will have “a very successful vaccine, therapeutic, and cure” before the end of 2020, he hailed the “incredible scientists and doctors” who’d come up with “many other cures and therapeutics over the years” - including an AIDS vaccine that doesn’t actually exist.

The president caught himself, referring instead to “the therapeutic for AIDS” and noting that the disease was once a “death sentence,” but can now be treated “with a pill.” Dozens of drugs are currently marketed to manage HIV infection and stop it from progressing into AIDS, though patient advocates complain many treatments are prohibitively expensive.

Trump’s detractors seized on the moment to unleash their scorn, cracking jokes at the president’s expense.

Some insisted the gaffe was evidence of mental deterioration.

Even Trump’s defenders focused on the fact that he’d immediately corrected himself, rather than attempt to back what he’d said.

A few, hinting at the failure of previous efforts to develop vaccines against other coronaviruses like SARS, pointed out that decades of dedicated research still hadn’t produced one against AIDS, observing that those mocking Trump nevertheless seemed perfectly comfortable with the notion of staying locked down until a coronavirus shot makes an appearance.

All cognitive dissonance aside, trials of a vaccine against HIV are actually underway, with scientists from the National Institutes of Health presenting promising research in March indicating they’d surmounted hurdles that stymied previous efforts at developing one.

However, research on a vaccine against the deadly disease has indeed been ongoing for decades, and a cure has been elusive.

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Trump kept his coronavirus options open, promising Covid-19 would cease to be a threat even if his amazing scientists failed to produce the world’s fastest (and least safety-tested) vaccine before the end of the year. “Even without [a vaccine], it goes away,” he told the audience. Over 2.1 million Americans have been infected with the coronavirus as of Tuesday, according to statistics collected by Johns Hopkins University, and over 116,500 people have died with the virus. Some states have begun lifting the lockdowns imposed in March to prevent the spread of the virus, but with tens of millions of Americans unemployed and many small businesses forced to close their doors, the damage has been done.

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