Six members of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS (PACHA) have resigned from the council over the various regressive health policies that President Donald Trump and his administration have decided to focus on.
Scott Schoettes, Lucy Bradley-Springer, Gina Brown, Ulysses Burley III, Michelle Ogle, and Grissel Granados have all officially resigned from the council.
“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,” they wrote.
“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.”
The PACHA was first established in 1995 and is routinely tasked with advising the White House on issues related to HIV/AIDS.
However, reports have indicated that things have been much different under Trump.
“After the inauguration and after I saw how this administration is going after so many things that make a difference in HIV, I just felt like I can’t be on that council and say I was working for the current administration,” said Bradley-Springer, a retired nurse and University of Colorado Denver associate professor.
Schoettes, the HIV project director for Lambda Legal, said the administration has positioned itself to be anti-science.
“I think there’s a general sense that the atmosphere has changed and our job at the council was going to be much harder,” he said. “It was my sense that I did not have any real say with this administration and that’s in part because it’s not an administration that wants to deal in facts, wants to deal in science.”
“I think HIV was never a priority for this White House. The Trump campaign refused to even meet with HIV advocates,” he said.
According to Burley, the Trump administration told them to host their first meeting in a room in a nondescript government building that was previously used for storage.
“It was in a room previously used for storage,” he said. “You could see we were being moved down the totem pole in terms of importance.”
The Trump administration is also lagging on appointing someone to head the White House Office of National AIDS Policy.
“In the overall scheme of things, I don’t think we’re high on the radar because they have so many other things they’re behind on,” said Bradley-Springer, who has worked to treat HIV since 1988.
Bradley-Springer tore into the Trump administration for failing to understand major health issues.
“I don’t think this administration understands much about health,” she said. “The more people that get infected with HIV the longer it’s going to take us to get over this epidemic.”
She also wished her colleagues who decided to stay on the best of luck.
“It could be that they will make a difference and we do need intelligent people who know what they’re doing,” she said. “But I thought resigning could be a statement I’m personally making, and making it with a group is better than making it by myself.”
As for Burley, he said he received some criticism for his decision to resign, but said the majority of the feedback he has received has been positive.
“People understand that we tried, and our work doesn’t stop just because we aren’t serving in this capacity. We will resist as long as we have to,” he said. “I’m not against this president, but I’m against policies that will take our health care back.”