The Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS (PACHA) provides advice, information, and recommendations for dealing with the dreaded illness in the United States. PACHA was formed in 1995 under the Clinton administration. PACHA was a follow up of President Ronald Reagan’s 1987 President’s Commission on the HIV Epidemic and 1988’s National Commission on AIDS. The legacy was maintained by the President Barack Obama where a new national strategy was developed. This could effectively reduce infections, improve the accessibility to health care, reduce inequalities in health accessibility and consolidate national efforts in bringing down the numbers.
Last Friday, 16th of June 2017, six members of the council resigned. They cited lack of concern of the present government as their reason for resigning from their position.
The resignation letter was drafted by Scott Schoettes. He was soon joined by five other members namely - Lucy Bradley-Springer, Gina Brown, Ulysses Burley III, Michelle Ogle, and Grissel Granados in resigning from their posts. According to the letter of resignation, President Donald Trump’s administration has not been taking any steps to devise a sound strategy to combat HIV/AIDS that affects thousands each year. The letter says that one of the most concerning things is that the present government “pushes legislation that will harm people living with HIV”. It will also stop or reverse the progress that has already been made in fighting this dreaded illness they fear.
According to Schoettes, the commission met with Secretary Hillary Clinton and Senator Bernie Sanders before the new President was elected but never actually meet President Donald Trump before the elections. He mentioned that the website for the Office of National AIDS policy has been taken down after Trump assumed office and is not yet in place. The President, he noted has not yet named a head of the White House Office of National AIDS Policy. This policy was formed in 2010 as a part of the White House Domestic Policy Council of Obama. This policy ensured greater awareness and improved care he said.
The letter also mentioned that the administration is bent upon reversing the Affordable Care Act. ACA is proposed to be replaced by the American Health Care Act and the letter says that this would be “particularly devastating for people living with HIV”. It would particularly affect homosexual populations and also affect non-HIV homosexual and bisexual men and transgender women who need insurance for medications and supplies for preventing exposure and contracting HIV/AIDS.
The members who resigned said that they could be more “effective from the outside” and would keep advocating the measures to reform the healthcare facilities and systems in order to provide better care to those afflicted with this disease.
Schoettes is not only counsel for PACHA but is also HIV Project Director at the pioneering LGBTQ legal group Lambda Legal. PACHA, advises the Secretary of Health & Human Services. At present this position is held by Tom Price who has been known to be anti-LGBTQ agenda.