Six members of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS have quit, saying President Donald Trump doesn't care about people who are living with the condition.
Last week those members resigned, a decision explained by council member Scott A. Schoettes in an opinion piece published in Newsweek. In the op-ed titled “Trump doesn’t care about HIV. We’re outta here,” Schoettes, counsel and HIV Project Director at Lambda Legal, said the council members quit because they can no longer be effective.
“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,” Schoettes wrote.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer yesterday defended Trump against the charge. "Respectfully, the president cares tremendously about that and the impact it has. 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,” Spicer told reporters at the daily White House press briefing.
The members’ frustration began last year when Trump’s presidential campaign declined to meet with advocates for people living with HIV, grew when an official White House website for the Office of National AIDS Policy was taken down on Inauguration Day and continued as Trump still has not appointed anyone to head the White House Office of National AIDS Policy, Schoettes said. The final blow came last month when the Republican-controlled House passed the American Health Care Act, which Schoettes said will have devastating effects on people living with HIV and AIDS.
“The Trump Administration has no strategy to address the ongoing 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,” he wrote.
When asked about the administration's strategy yesterday, Spicer said the White House is working "hand in glove with the commission and other members throughout the government," calling it a "holistic approach, both in this country and helping people abroad where that’s a big issue."
Other members who resigned from the council are Lucy Bradley-Springer, Gina Brown, Ulysses W. Burley III, Michelle Ogle and Grissel Granados. In an interview with WBUR, Schoettes said there are 15 members left on the council and he hopes they will be able to influence policy.