Sources inside of the White House tell The Chronicle that President Donald J. Trump is planning a major campaign pledge to commit more than $1 billion to cure the herpes virus before the end of his second term.
“In the last six months, we’ve built up a massive amount of private sector infrastructure around vaccine research and manufacturing,” the political staffer explains. “We are going to address COVID-19, and then we will have a massive over-capacity when it comes to vaccine research.”
“President Trump wants to leverage this excess research capacity to yield a vaccine for herpes and a slew of other chronic viral infections,” he says. “He will be pledging more than $1 billion in matching grants to fund large scale clinical trials of various pharmaceutical treatments and combinations of treatments of the virus.”
According to the World Health Organization, 3.7 billion people under age 50 have herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) — that’s 67% of the global population in that age bracket. Another 417 million people (11%) between ages 15 and 49 worldwide have herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2).
Trump’s critics see the move as a cynical ploy to court the support of voters in the African American and LGBT communities, two populations with a considerably higher prevalence of the herpes infection.
“The problem with herpes research isn’t a lack of research avenues. The problem has been that Big Pharma makes a lot more money on a treatment than they ever could on cure. They would rather sell you a monthly treatment than a one-time cure,” the White House advisor explains.
“President Trump wants to correct that market failure,” he adds.
Herpes is contracted through direct contact with an active lesion or body fluid of an infected person, and is typically contracted through direct skin-to-skin contact.
On an annual basis, without the use of antivirals or condoms, the transmission risk of HSV-2 from infected male to female is about 8–11%. This is believed to be due to the increased exposure of mucosal tissue to potential infection sites. Transmission risk from infected female to male is around 4–5% annually. Suppressive antiviral therapy reduces these risks by 50%.
Antivirals also help prevent the development of symptomatic HSV in infection scenarios, meaning the infected partner will be seropositive but symptom-free by about 50%. Condom use also reduces the transmission risk significantly. As with almost all sexually transmitted infections, women are more susceptible to acquiring genital HSV-2 than men.
Asymptomatic carriers of the HSV-2 virus are still contagious.