Citing Donald Trump's ongoing quest to undermine and repeal the Affordable Care Act, his refusal to meet with HIV/AIDS advocates during the primary, and his general "lack of understanding and concern,” six members of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS, established by President Bill Clinton more than 20 years ago, have resigned. Former council member and Lambda Legal lawyer Scott Schoettes writes in the group’s resignation letter:
“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.
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 final straw for us,” Schoettes wrote, “is President Trump’s handling of health care reform.”
“Because more than 40 percent of people with HIV receive care through Medicaid, proposed cuts to that program would be extremely harmful. Prior to Medicaid expansion under ACA, a person had to be both very low income and disabled to be eligible for Medicaid.
For people living with HIV, that usually meant an AIDS diagnosis—making the disease more difficult and expensive to bring under control—before becoming eligible.
Between reinstating that paradox by defunding Medicaid expansion, imposing per-person caps on benefits, and/or block granting the program, the changes to Medicaid contemplated by the American Health Care Act would be particularly devastating for people living with HIV.”
According to a recent data from journalist Linda Villarosa, if current HIV infection rates continue, “one in two African-American gay and bisexual men will be infected with the virus. That compares with a lifetime risk of one in 99 for all Americans and one in 11 for white gay and bisexual men.”
The resignation letter recognizes that it is indeed people of color and other members of marginalized communities who will be most affected by Trump’s health care policy—or rather, lack thereof:
“We know who the biggest losers will be if states are given the option of eliminating essential health benefits or allowing insurers to charge people with HIV substantially more than others.
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.”
Last month, two prominent members of an EPA subcommittee made headlines after resigning. Dr. Carlos Martín told CNN at the time, "I can't be part of what I see is likely to happen in the future ... I can't be a prop to bad science."
The former Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS members feel they can also better serve the communities outside an administration that is offering no support:
“We will be more effective from the outside, advocating for change and protesting policies that will hurt the health of the communities we serve and the country as a whole if this administration continues down the current path.
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.”