Six members of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS (PACHA) resigned last week, citing the Trump administration’s blatant lack of concern and foresight as the cause.
In a joint letter published in Newsweek announcing their resignations, the group described the Trump administration’s failure to effectively address the HIV/AIDS epidemic, or to even address it at all. The signatories explained that they felt they would be more effective advocates from outside the Trump administration.
Trump’s actions have indicated that his administration will reverse much of the recent progress achieved under the Obama administration in the arenas of HIV/AIDS prevention and relief. In their letter, the former PACHA members delineated the ways in which Trump has demonstrated himself to be uninformed about the issue in ways that will directly hurt people with HIV: During the primaries, Trump refused to meet with HIV advocates, overtly rejecting an opportunity to become more educated on the issue; five months into his presidency, he still has no comprehensive HIV/AIDS strategy. “The final straw for us,” the signatories write, “more like a two-by-four than a straw,” is Trumpcare—the GOP plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Cuts to Medicaid in the bill, which gives care to over 40 percent of people with HIV, would hurt those affected tremendously.
PACHA was established in 1995 to advise the Secretary of Health and Human Services on matters of policy, programs and research to further treatment, prevention and an eventual cure for HIV. Composed of a wide variety of people—from public health officials to faith leaders to people living with HIV—the council provides crucial assistance to the presidential administration. However, those who have resigned have witnessed the Trump administration work to implement harmful and uninformed policies under a president “who simply does not care.” The letter emphasizes that the communities the Trump administration has repeatedly shown itself to ignore will be the most affected by this administrative incompetence:
“It will be people—many of them people of color—across the South and in rural and underserved areas across the country, the regions and communities now at the epicenter of the U.S. HIV/AIDS epidemic.
It will be young gay and bisexual men; it will be women of color; it will be transgender women; it will be low-income people.
It will be people who become newly infected in an uncontrolled epidemic, new cases that could be prevented by appropriate care for those already living with the disease.”
Women suffer from HIV disproportionately around the world, particularly women of color. According to The Foundation for Aids Research (amfAR), 51 percent of adults around the world living with HIV are women, and approximately 80 percent of all women in the U.S. with HIV are African American or Hispanic. Asians and Pacific Islanders have the highest rate of increase in HIV infections in the country, especially API women and trans women.
The six former PACHA members made a bold statement through their resignations against the ignorance and uncaring of a president whose policies will harm the most marginalized groups. The Trump administration has clearly demonstrated that it is unprepared and unconcerned for the HIV epidemic, which affects over one million people in the United States. The Office of National AIDS Policy website was taken down the day Trump took office and has still not been replaced. Trump has not yet appointed a leader to the White House Office of National AIDS Policy either—a position President Obama filled a little over one month into his administration.
For the sake of the health of those who live with HIV—including women and people of color—Congress ought to listen to the letter’s final request: “We hope the members of Congress who have the power to affect healthcare reform will engage with us and other advocates in a way that the Trump Administration apparently will not.”