Six members of a panel tasked with advising the Trump administration on HIV/AIDS policy, programs, and research to promote more effective prevention and treatment of the disease have publicly resigned their positions citing what they perceive as a lack of interest on the part of the administration in addressing the HIV/AIDS epidemic. The Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS was created by President Bill Clinton in 1995 and renewed by President George W. Bush. The panel consists of up to 25 members ranging from HIV advocates and doctors to legal experts, academics, and public health officials.
In an op-ed announcing the resignations, Scott Schoettes, who serves as Counsel and HIV Project Director for Lambda Legal, stated, “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.” The former board members stated that President Trump’s disinterest in the issue is evidenced by the fact that he has declined to meet with and seek input from HIV advocates and policy experts both as a candidate and as president. The president has also taken down the website for the Office of National Aids Policy and has not appointed anyone to lead the office.
The former council members also believe that President Trump’s proposed health care reforms and cuts to Medicaid could be particularly devastating to those living with HIV and AIDS. As many as 40 percent of people living with HIV/AIDS receive Medicaid assistance and are part of underserved populations and communities. Even though medications that can dramatically extend and improve the quality of life for those living with HIV/AIDS have been available for more than two decades, only about 40 percent of those infected have access to the medications due to the high cost.
Schoettes, who was joined in his resignation by Lucy Bradley-Springer, Michelle Ogle, Gina Brown, Ulysses Burley III, and Grissel Granados, stated that they felt that they would be more effective advocating for the needs of the communities that they serve from the outside instead of remaining a part of the panel. The Department of Health and Human Services and the White House have yet to comment on the resignations.