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Donald Trump Can't Seem to Get His Sexual Health Facts Straight

What’s the difference between HIV and HPV? Don’t ask the president of the United States.

That’s according to Microsoft founder and philanthropist Bill Gates, who once apparently schooled Trump on these two very different conditions.

On Thursday, All in with Chris Hayes on MSNBC aired footage of a Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation event, where Gates recounted his meetings with the president in December 2016 and March 2017. During both of these encounters, Gates said, the president asked Gates how HPV was different from HIV.

“Both times he wanted to know if there was a difference between HIV and HPV, so I was able to explain that those are rarely confused with each other,” Gates told the audience at the event.


To clear up any confusion, human papillomavirus (HPV) refers to a group of viruses spread through sexual contact, some of which can cause genital warts or cancer. It’s estimated that roughly 79 million Americans have HPV, making it very common. HIV is the human immunodeficiency virus, which weakens the immune system and can ultimately progress to AIDS. Though both can be spread through sex, HPV and HIV are two very different conditions.

Yes, it’s surprising the leader of our country doesn’t know the difference between HIV and HPV, but this isn’t the first time Trump’s administration has shown a lack of knowledge about sexual health issues. Here are three more alarming things members of the Trump administration apparently don’t know about sexual health:

VP Mike Pence Said Condoms Are Ineffective for STIs

In 2002, Mike Pence, who was then an Indiana congressman, voiced his opinion on CNN about former Secretary of State Colin Powell’s decision to advocate for condom use. In 2002, Pence said on CNN that condoms offer poor protection against sexually transmitted infections:

Of course, condoms are not fail-safe, but public health experts do recommend using them to lower your chances of pregnancy and STIs. Condoms are 98 percent effective at preventing pregnancy, and reduce your risk of transmitting STIs.

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Trump’s Administration Claimed Birth Control is Ineffective

In October 2017, the Trump administration changed an Affordable Care Act (ACA) — also known as Obamacare — mandate that required employers to offer insurance coverage for contraception, among other services. Under the new administration, employers can eliminate contraceptives from health insurance plans for religious purposes.

To justify its new set of rules, the administration said that contraceptives aren’t proven to prevent unwanted pregnancies.

“The rates of, and reasons for, unintended pregnancy are notoriously difficult to measure,” the administration wrote in a document. “In particular, association and causality can be hard to disentangle.”


Oral contraceptives are the most popular form of birth control among women, and have been shown to be 99 percent effective when taken as prescribed.

Public health experts agree that birth control does prevent unwanted pregnancies.

“We know that safe contraception — and contraception is incredibly safe — leads to a reduction in pregnancies,” Michele Bratcher Goodwin, director of the Center for Biotechnology and Global Health Policy at the University of California, Irvine, School of Law told Bloomberg at the time. “This has been data that we’ve had for decades.”

Trump Misspoke About Late-Term Abortions

In January, President Trump spoke at a March for Life anti-abortion rally, in which he made a factual error when talking about late-term abortion.

“Right now in a number of states the laws allow a baby to be born from his or her mother’s womb in the ninth month. It is wrong; it has to change,” he said.

Of course, this blunder is likely the president misspeaking; as many commentators later speculated, he likely meant to say torn. In October 2016, Trump also claimed during a presidential debate that late-term abortions regularly took place in the ninth month.


Still, many medical professionals argue there is little evidence that women frequently get abortions during the ninth month.

In a piece for Vox, OB/GYN Jen Gunter, MD, explained that data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicate that only 1.3 percent of abortions occur on or after 21 weeks. There are nine states and the District of Columbia that allow abortions after 24 weeks without restrictions, but that’s still a long way away from 36 weeks, or the nine-month mark. “Honestly, I’ve never heard of it happening,” Gutner said of abortions taking place in the final month of pregnancy.

As previously stated, CDC records show that 99 percent of abortions occur before 21 weeks. Past that point, they’re performed under harrowing circumstances that make it impossible for a baby to survive outside of the womb.

That’s why Trump’s statement outraged health professionals and women who faced late-term abortions due to fetal abnormalities.

“Abortions that occur at this stage in pregnancy are often the result of tragic diagnoses and are exactly the scenarios wherein patients need their doctors, and not obstructive politicians,” Dr. Jennifer Conti, clinical assistant professor at Stanford University, told The Guardian. “Asking a woman to carry a fatally flawed pregnancy to term is, at the very least, heartbreaking.

Even when there are complications in the later stages of pregnancy, doctors are more likely to induce labor or perform a C-section, which is not the same as termination.

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