Six HIV/AIDS Panel Members Resign, Citing Trump’s Indifference and Republicans’ Severe Healthcare Cuts
Former members of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS said they hope their mass resignation will pressure the Trump and extremist Republicans to help people with HIV infections and reject Trumpcare.
Six members of the 21-member council resigned June 13 and announced their resignations Friday in a column published in Newsweek. The Senate may vote on the healthcare bill next week even though the bill is being drafted in secret, and hasn’t been released.
“The decision to resign from government service is not one that any of us take lightly,” wrote attorney Scott Schoettes, one of the three resigning members who lives with HIV. “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.”
The other members who resigned are Lucy Bradley-Springer, an associate professor at the University of Colorado School of Medicine; Gina Brown, a community organizer for the Southern AIDS Coalition in Birmingham, Ala.; consultant Ulysses Burley III; physician Michelle Ogle; and Grissel Granados who coordinates a program at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles to reduce the risk of HIV infection.
The council, created in 1995 under former President Bill Clinton, has met once, in March, since Trump’s inauguration. Trump took down the website of the Office of National AIDS Policy the day he took office and has not appointed anyone to lead the office.
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said Trump “cares tremendously” about HIV and AIDS.
“We’re going to continue doing what we can from a government standpoint,” Spicer said at Monday’s press briefing.
Trump has hired infectious disease specialist Katy French Talento as a health policy adviser, according to a White House statement. Talento has met twice with the head of the Centers for Disease Control Center for HIV/AIDS about the AIDS epidemic and the federal response.
Staff from Trump’s Domestic Policy Council have also met with HIV/AIDS groups, according to the statement. A press officer also said that members of the advisory council who resigned did not reach out to Talento or Andrew Bremberg, the director of the Domestic Policy Council, about their concerns.
Ogle said what got to her most was watching the reaction of Trump and the other white men in power after the House passed the bill that would repeal the Affordable Care Act and leave 23 million more people without health insurance over the next decade.
“I couldn’t be part of the administration and look my patients in the eye,” said Ogle, the medical director of a North Carolina clinic that treats people with HIV.
More than 40% of people with HIV receive care through Medicaid, the federal insurance program for the poor that extremist Republicans want to slash. Before the Affordable Care Act was passed, about 13% of people with HIV had private insurance. About 24% had no insurance.
Granados, who also is living with HIV, said the Medicaid system in California helped keep her healthy as a child.
“I’m hoping that the senators who are on the fence may listen to our concerns,” Granados said.
“I feel like this administration is not moving in the right direction to provide healthcare for anybody but especially for people with HIV,” Bradley-Springer said.