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Bill Gates Says Trump Doesn't Know the Difference Between HPV and HIV

"I was able to explain that those are rarely confused with each other."

Mike Darling

Getty Images

During a meeting of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation on Thursday, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates revealed that President Donald Trump inquired in two separate meetings if the sexually transmitted diseases HIV, short for human immunodeficiency virus, and HPV, short for human papillomavirus, were the same thing.

Gates made the remarks during a Q&A portion of the meeting with staff members of the foundation, which was aired on Thursday night by MSNBC’s All in With Chris Hayes.

“Both times he wanted to know if there was a difference between HIV and HPV," Gates said, triggering laughter from the audience. "So I was able to explain that those are rarely confused with each other."

Halting the worldwide spread of HIV, an incurable virus that attacks the immune system and is a precursor to AIDS, is one of the top priorities of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, a nonprofit founded in 2006 that has committed more than $3 billion in grants to treating HIV in regions such as sub-saharan Africa where AIDS is still highly prevalent.

Human papillomavirus—rarely confused with HIV, as Gates said—is the most common STI in the world, affecting more than 80 million Americans alone. Most of the time, the virus is benign, going away on its own. Gardasil, a vaccine introduced in 2009, protects against nine types of the virus.

Vaccines were also among the recent topics of conversation between Trump and Gates. According to Gates, Trump asked about the myth that vaccines can lead to illness.

"I saw him at Trump Tower and I said ‘hey, science and innovation is a great thing. You should be a leader who drives innovation.’ That conversation was about a broad set of things—in energy, in health, in education, you know, pick things you wanna do that are big. HIV vaccine, you could accelerate that. Be associated with innovation," Gates said, recalling their first meeting.

"The second time I saw him was the March after that, March 2017 in the White House. In both of those two meetings he asked me if vaccines weren't a bad thing... and somebody, Robert Kennedy Jr., was advising him that vaccines were causing bad things. And I said no, that's a dead end, that would be a bad thing, don't do that."

Earlier this year, Trump reportedly abandoned plans to investigate a link between vaccines and autism, which Kennedy had spearheaded.

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