In a big move, six members of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS (PACHA) resigned this week.
Scott A. Schoettes, Lucy Bradley-Springer, Gina Brown, Ulysses W. Burley III, Michelle Ogle and Grissel Granados resigned from PACHA on June 13, citing President Donald Trump’s lack of interest in addressing the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
Schoettes, who is the Counsel and HIV Project Director at Lambda Legal, wrote about the decision in an editorial for 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,” he wrote.
In addition to Trump’s apparent lack of interest, Schoettes also criticized his lack of strategy around the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
“The Trump Administration has no strategy to address the on-going 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.”
PACHA was created in 1995 and, according to Schoettes, “provides advice, information, and recommendations to the Secretary of Health and Human Services regarding programs, policies, and research to promote effective treatment, prevention, and an eventual cure for HIV.”
Schoettes also wrote that while Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders met with HIV advocates on the campaign trail, “candidate Trump refused, [missing] an opportunity to learn—from the experts—about the contours of today’s epidemic and the most pressing issues currently affecting people living with HIV.”
He additionally noted the following examples as evidence on where Trump stands on developing a strategy to tackle the HIV/AIDS epidemic:
More important, President Trump has not appointed anyone to lead the White House Office of National AIDS Policy, a post that held a seat on the Domestic Policy Council under President Obama. This means no one is tasked with regularly bringing salient issues regarding this ongoing public health crisis to the attention of the President and his closest advisers.
By comparison, President Obama appointed a director to this office just 36 days into his administration. Within 18 months, that new director and his staff crafted the first comprehensive U.S. HIV/AIDS strategy. By contrast, President Trump appears to have no plan at all.
But the “final straw” for Schoettes and the other five was “Trump’s handling of health care reform.”
“Between reinstating that paradox by defunding Medicaid expansion, imposing per-person caps on benefits, and/or block granting the program, the changes to Medicaid contemplated by the American Health Care Act would be particularly devastating for people living with HIV,” he wrote.
While no longer working directly with the Trump Administration, the six will continue their HIV/AIDS advocacy work.
“The decision to resign from government service is not one that any of us take lightly. However, we cannot ignore the many signs that the Trump Administration does not take the on-going epidemic or the needs of people living with HIV seriously.”
“We will be more effective from the outside, advocating for change and protesting policies that will hurt the health of the communities we serve and the country as a whole if this administration continues down the current path.”