A quarter of the President’s Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS Resigns in Protest, Including Majority of PACHA Members Living with HIV
Contact: Gina Brown: 504.458.5247; Grissel Granados: 562.965.0055; Scott Schoettes: 773.474.9250
June 16, 2017: Today, 6 of the 21 members of the President’s Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS (PACHA) resigned, including three of the five members who are living with HIV. PACHA advises the President and federal agencies on the domestic response to the HIV epidemic. Under President Obama, PACHA was responsible for helping to monitor implementation of the first ever National HIV/AIDS Strategy and passed resolutions to increase federal focus on women, transgender people, and youth, as well as calling for an end to laws criminalizing people living with HIV. Resigning members expressed frustration with an administration that values neither their insight on ending the epidemic nor the very lives of people living with and vulnerable to HIV. Positive Women’s Network stands with and supports the resigning people living with HIV, Gina Brown, Grissel Granados, and Scott Schoettes, and applauds them for their leadership and service.
“I have decided to step down from PACHA because I do not feel that the current administration would take any of the recommendations made by the advisory council,” said PWN member Grissel Granados. “Any of the recommendations I have to make a real impact on the rates of HIV as well as the quality of life for people living with HIV, which are based on science and community best practices, are in opposition to anything the administration stands for. There is no point in me being part of PACHA if the administration will not support comprehensive sexual health education in schools, continue expanded Medicaid, or make spaces safe for undocumented immigrants. The current administration has threatened the rights, safety, and wellbeing of the populations most impacted by the HIV epidemic, including women of color, gay men of color, and youth.”
The current president campaigned on promises to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which dramatically increased access to health care coverage for people living with and vulnerable to HIV—mainly through Medicaid expansion—and since taking office, he has followed through on that promise. The ACA repeal bill, the deceptively named “American Health Care Act,” would also defund Planned Parenthood, a critical source of preventive sexual and reproductive health care—and HIV testing—for some of the most vulnerable communities. Further, the Adminstration has taken no action yet in support of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy.
“The decision to resign from government service is not one that any of us take lightly. 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” said Scott Schoettes, HIV Project Director at Lambda Legal. “Trump should embrace the important work accomplished by the National HIV/AIDS Strategy. Public health is not a partisan issue, and this important document could easily be ratified by the Trump Administration. 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 President’s recently released budget, which contains $1.4 trillion in cuts to Medicaid over the next decade, would further decimate health care for people living with HIV, over 40% of whom receive their coverage through Medicaid. The budget also includes $59 million in cuts to the Ryan White Care Act through elimination of two programs that provide training to health care providers and that help deliver prevention and treatment services to some of the most impacted communities, and $72 million in cuts to disability, including SSDI, which many long-term survivors rely on. Further, it prohibits federal funding of syringe exchange programs, despite their proven success in preventing transmission of HIV and hepatitis C as well as providing opportunities for treatment.
“There is simply no way that a president who proposes such reckless policies and budget cuts to vital sources of health care, prevention and treatment can possibly be serious about ending the epidemic or improving the lives of PLHIV,” said New Orleans-based PWN member Gina Brown. “I’m resigning from PACHA because it’s clear this administration doesn’t care about the needs of women with HIV. I’m taking the fight for our lives back to the streets.”
The issue of HIV criminalization is very important to many of the PACHA members as well—and given the president’s appointment of notoriously racist Jeff Sessions to Attorney General and ultra-conservative Neil Gorsuch to Supreme Court, there is little reason to hope that the administration will be amendable to ending these discriminatory laws that do nothing to prevent HIV transmission but fuel stigma and destroy lives. Indeed, the president has already indicated that agencies addressing discrimination can expect massive budget cuts—marking a sharp reversal from the path toward eliminating discrimination, which greatly impacts the HIV community, most of whom live at the intersection of multiple oppressions.
“With no reason to believe that this administration is serious about ending the epidemic or improving the lives of people living with and vulnerable to HIV, continuing to work with them would only lend a veneer of legitimacy to a president who is intent on undermining our health, safety and wellbeing at every turn,” said Ms. Brown. “We refuse to take on that role.”