Six people have now resigned from the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV and AIDS (PACHA).
Outraged at President Trump’s lack of care and the Trump administration’s regressive healthcare policies, Scott Schoettes, Lucy Bradley-Springer, Gina Brown, Ulysses Burley III, Michelle Ogle, and Grissel Granados announced their joint resignation in a letter for Newsweek magazine.
‘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,’ Schoettes writes in the letter.
‘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.’
Why it matters
PACHA was created in 1995 to provide ‘advice, information, and recommendations to the Secretary [of Health] regarding programs, policies, and research to promote effective treatment, prevention and cure of HIV disease and AIDS, including considering common co-morbidities of those infected with HIV as needed to promote effective HIV prevention and treatment and quality services to persons living with HIV disease and AIDS.’
In the letter, Schoettes mentions that only about 40% of people living with HIV in the United States are able to access the life-saving medications which have been around for over 20 years.
Schoettes also recalls that, before the election, both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders met with HIV advocates while candidate Trump refused to do so. And on the day Trump took office, the administration removed the Office of National AIDS Policy website. In the five months President Trump has been in office, no replacement for this website has been added.
Additionally, President Trump has not appointed anyone to represent the White House Office of National AIDS Policy. ‘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,’ Schoettes writes.
Schoettes goes on to criticize the Trump administration’s continued plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and make cuts to Medicaid. He notes that more than 40% of people living with HIV receive care through Medicaid, and such cuts would be detrimental to them.
— Michael Rajner (@MichaelRajner) June 17, 2017
Six People Have Resigned From Trump’s HIV/AIDS Advisory Council. As a former PACHA member-dramatic, needs attention. https://t.co/pjF4Me9Ojn
— Karen Ivantic (@KarenIvantic) June 18, 2017
‘And we know who the biggest losers will be if states are given the option of eliminating essential health benefits or allowing insurers to charge people with HIV substantially more than others,’ Schoettes writes.
‘It will be people—many of them people of color—across the South and in rural and underserved areas across the country, the regions and communities now at the epicenter of the U.S. HIV/AIDS epidemic. It will be young gay and bisexual men; it will be women of color; it will be transgender women; it will be low-income people. It will be people who become newly infected in an uncontrolled epidemic, new cases that could be prevented by appropriate care for those already living with the disease.’
‘The decision to resign from government service is not one that any of us take lightly,’ Schoettes says on behalf of all six resigning PACHA members. ‘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.’
GSN has reached out to the United States Department of Health & Human Services for comment.