(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE)
The first hints of an uncertain future for the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS came last year, when Donald Trump’s presidential campaign refused to meet with advocates for people living with HIV, said Scott Schoettes, a member of the council since 2014.
That unease was magnified on Inauguration Day in January, when an official White House website for the Office of National AIDS Policy vanished, Schoettes said.
“I started to think, was it going to be useful or wise or would it be possible to work with this administration?” Schoettes told The Washington Post. “Still, I made a decision to stick it out and see what we could do.”
Less than six months later, Schoettes said those initial reservations had given way to full-blown frustration over a lack of dialogue with or caring from Trump administration officials about issues relating to HIV or AIDS.
Last Tuesday, he and five others announced they were quitting Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS, also known as PACHA. According to Schoettes, the last straw – or “more like a two-by-four than a straw” – had come in May, after the Republican-dominated House of Representatives passed the American Health Care Act, which he said would have “devastating” effects on those living with HIV.
“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,” Schoettes wrote in a blistering guest column for Newsweek announcing the resignations.
The column also pointed out that Trump has still not appointed anyone to head the White House Office of National AIDS Policy, which former president Barack Obama had done 36 days after his own inauguration.
“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,” Schoettes wrote. “Public health is not a partisan issue … If the President is not going to engage on the subject of HIV/AIDS, he should at least continue policies that support people living with and at higher risk for HIV and have begun to curtail the epidemic.”
The column was co-signed by the five other members of the council who had resigned, including Lucy Bradley-Springer, Gina Brown, Ulysses W. Burley III, Grissel Granados and Michelle Ogle. As of Monday morning, their bios remained on PACHA’s government website.