Six members of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS (PACHA) have resigned in protest of the Trump administration, because they say that President Donald Trump “has no strategy to address the on-going HIV/AIDS epidemic.”
“I started to think, was it going to be useful or wise or would it be possible to work with this administration?” Scott Schoettes, Counsel and HIV Project Director at Lambda Legal, told The Washington Post. “Still, I made a decision to stick it out and see what we could do.”
But Schoettes said that the administration had not turned to the council for advice in HIV/AIDS matters, and what’s more, Shoetttes, who is HIV-positive, claimed that legislation being pushed forward by the administration would harm HIV-positive people and “reverse gains made in the fight against the disease.”
“The decision to resign from government service is not one that any of us take lightly,” Schoettes wrote on behalf of his colleagues in a Newsweek op-ed on Friday. “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.”
“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 other five members who resigned from the council are Lucy Bradley-Springer, Gina Brown, Ulysses W. Burley III, Michelle Ogle and Grissel Granados.
After the blistering op-ed, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said that he did not know if the six members of the council would be replaced but insisted that Trump was not careless or callous when it came to the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
“Well, I mean, respectfully, the president cares tremendously about that and the impact it has,” Spicer said. “Obviously, the individuals that he’s appointed here in the White House have been in communication with various stakeholders in that community to help develop policies and formulas going forward, but we’re going to continue to do what we can from a government standpoint.”