After his speech to Pence, Brandon Victor Dixon asked the Hamilton audience to donate to Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, an organization that works with several social service providers that benefit people living with HIV and other chronic illnesses. It’s “red bucket” season on Broadway, in which several theaters are collecting funds for the organization. Friday night at Hamilton was part of their Fall 2016 fundraising drive. As patrons left the theatre, queues of people exiting out into the street donated to BF/ECA volunteers holding red buckets. No reports mentioned whether Pence donated to BC/EFA. He did not immediately respond to Mic’s request for comment.
The Hamilton cast is currently led by Javier Muñoz, an HIV-positive out gay Puerto Rican. Whether people know about his HIV status, his presence on the Hamilton stage serves as a loud reminder that 1.2 million HIV-positive Americans are part of the tapestry that Dixon described in his message to Pence. For queer men of color like Muñoz, the stakes in the fight against HIV are particularly high. Queer black and Latino men face staggering rates of infection and government opposition, or even neglect, will lead to the infection of thousands more.
While Donald Trump hasn’t laid out plans to help people with HIV or to combat more than 40,000 infections in the United States in 2015, his running mate has adopted an almost sinister opposition to HIV treatment and prevention. Pence was an architect to an entire HIV outbreak in his home state of Indiana by gutting funding to Planned Parenthood, which was the only available HIV testing site for much of the state’s southeast counties. After the outbreak, Pence declined to listen to public health experts and implemented a needle exchange program that lasted only 30 days.
Aside from his actions, Pence’s words also don’t bode well for those living with or at risk for HIV acquisition.