President Donald Trump has a “lack of understanding and concern” for people living with HIV/AIDS, according to the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS (PACHA), leading six members to resign.
In an op-ed for Newsweek, former council member Scott A. Schoettes revealed that the Trump administration has no strategy in mind for fighting the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Specifically, Schoettes criticized the White House for supporting legislation “that will harm people living with HIV and halt or reverse important gains made in the fight against this disease.”
Created in 1995 under President Bill Clinton, PACHA members are appointed by the president, and usually include HIV/AIDS researchers, health care officials, medical providers, clergy members, HIV advocates, and people living with HIV. PACHA also provides recommendations for the National HIV/AIDS Strategy, a federal program created under the Obama administration in 2010. President Trump has since let the White House Office of National AIDS Policy decay, refusing to appoint an official to lead the office.
The former PACHA members point to President Trump’s handling of the American Health Care Act as their final sign to depart. Schoettes warns that Medicaid cuts could damage HIV care access for many low-income Americans and that AHCA policies could negatively hurt people of color, queer men, transgender women, and HIV-positive Americans living in Southern and rural areas that need HIV/AIDS medical care access.
“Because we do not believe the Trump administration is listening to—or cares—about the communities we serve as members of PACHA, we have decided it is time to step down,” Schoettes writes. “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.”
Although prevention and care treatment have decreased the AIDS mortality rate in recent years, the HIV/AIDS epidemic still lives on in the 21st century. The CDC reports that over one million Americans are HIV-positive, with queer men making up over 65 percent of all HIV diagnoses. Black men represent approximately 45 percent of all HIV diagnoses, whereas Latinos comprised 24 percent of HIV infections.