Citing a total “lack of understanding and concern” by President Donald Trump over HIV/AIDS public health policy, six people this week announced their resignations from the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS.
In a scathing column published in Newsweek on Friday, council member Scott A. Schoettes, HIV project director at Lambda Legal, explained the decision by saying that the Trump administration has no strategy to address the HIV/AIDS epidemic, seeks no input from experts on the issue, and seeks a legislative agenda that is harmful to people with HIV/AIDS.
Lucy Bradley-Springer, Gina Brown, Ulysses W. Burley III, Michelle Ogle, and Grissel Granados joined Schoettes in resigning on June 13 and co–signed the Newsweek column.
Trump, Schoettes noted, has not yet appointed a director of the White House Office of National AIDS Policy, a post that former President Barack Obama filled just 36 days into his administration.
“Within 18 months, that new director and his staff crafted the first comprehensive U.S. HIV/AIDS strategy,” he said, referring to the Obama administration. “By contrast, President Trump appears to have no plan at all.”
Trump’s administration also removed that office’s website the day Trump took office and has yet to replace it. Instead, a mostly blank page welcomes visitors with just five words: “Office of National AIDS Policy.”
This is what the website looked like under the Obama administration:
And this is what it looks like under Trump:
“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 wrote.
“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,” he added.
The most egregious offense, however, is Trump’s efforts to destroy the Affordable Care Act. Schoettes states:
It is indisputable that the Affordable Care Act has benefitted people living with HIV and supported efforts to combat the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Gains in the percentage of people with HIV who know their status, the percentage engaged in care, the percentage receiving successful treatment, and a decrease in new cases of HIV were seen in Massachusetts under Romneycare. We are beginning to see similar effects on a national level under Obamacare.
More than 40% of people with HIV are on Medicaid, and proposed cuts to that program would turn back the clock to when people with HIV would have to wait for an AIDS diagnosis before becoming eligible for Medicaid, Schoettes said. Not only is that more expensive overall to treat, but it’s also simply cruel.
[W]e 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.
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.
The council was created in 1995 for experts to provide policy recommendations to the secretary of health and human services with the goal of promoting effective treatment, prevention, and an eventual cure for HIV.