Six prominent members of an HIV/AIDS council resigned from their positions in protest of President Donald Trump’s non-existent HIV policies.
Scott Schoettes, counsel and HIV project director at Lamba Legal, a LGBTQ legal group, resigned during the weekend from the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS (PACHA), along with five other council members: Lucy Bradley-Springer, Gina Brown, Ulysses Burley III, Michelle Ogle and Grissel Granados.
On Friday, Schoettes slammed Trump as a president who “simply does not care” in an open letter to Newsweek.
“As advocates for people living with HIV, we have dedicated our lives to combating this disease and no longer feel we can do so effectively within the confines of an advisory body to a president who simply does not care. The Trump administration has no strategy to address the ongoing HIV/AIDS epidemic, seeks zero input from experts to formulate HIV policy, and — most concerning — pushes legislation that will harm people living with HIV and halt or reverse important gains made in the fight against this disease,” the letter reads.
PACHA is responsible for overseeing the United States’ strategy to fight against HIV/AIDS and provides the president with information and suggestions regarding the disease. It was formed under then-President Bill Clinton in 1995 to provide recommendations for the ongoing AIDS epidemic, following President Ronald Reagan’s 1987 President’s Commission on the HIV Epidemic and the 1988 National Commission on AIDS.
During the Obama administration, the council helped the government craft new national strategies to reduce infections, reduce health inequalities, increase health care access and achieve a more coordinated national response.
However, things changed once Trump became president.
Schoettes noted that although the council met with Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders during the 2016 election run, it could not schedule a sit down with Trump. He also said the website for the Office of National AIDS was pulled down, under the guise of it being replaced with an improved version, once Trump assumed office. However, five months into his presidency, the billionaire mogul has failed to do so and PACHA members believe he never will.
The White House also has yet to name a head to the White House Office of National AIDS Policy formed in 2010 by President Obama.
The letter also noted the Trump administration’s efforts to cut back on elements of the Affordable Care Act, despite the reform resulting in “gains in the percentage of people with HIV who know their status, the percentage engaged in care, [and] the percentage receiving successful treatment.”
The proposal to repeal Obamacare would be “particularly devastating” for the HIV community.
The six former council members believe they would be more effective in the fight against AIDS from “the outside” and they will continue to urge members of Congress to listen to advocates as they work to reform the health care system.
“I think there's a general sense that the atmosphere has changed and our job at the council was going to be much harder," Schoettes said. "It was my sense that I did not have any real say with this administration and that's in part because it's not an administration that wants to deal in facts, wants to deal in science."
"I think HIV was never a priority for this White House. The Trump campaign refused to even meet with HIV advocates," he added.
In light of the administration’s willful negligence, people are calling for the other 15 members of the council to resign as well.
“How about the other members of PACHA? Where’s their courage? This should have been a mass protest with ALL members resigning,” wrote prominent, long-time AIDS activist Peter Staley.
@realDonaldTrump PACHA agency 5 members have resigned. USA have decided do not protect people w HIV/AIDS.GOPs are the disgrace of AMERICA????— Silvia Mata (@silvimata) June 18, 2017