Trumpcare Will Cripple the Fight Against AIDS
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Trumpcare Will Cripple the Fight Against AIDS

The CDC’s Positively Speaking program focuses on incorporating safer sex messages into HIV care (CDC photo).

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.

ACTION BOX / What you can do about it

Contact Republican senators who might oppose the health care bill that is being drafted in secret to take away health care from people with HIV and other Americans in our country.

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W. Va.) Call her at 202-224-6472 or 304-347-5372 or write her at 172 Russell Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20510 or 500 Virginia Street East, Suite 950, Charleston, W.Va. 25301.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) Call her at 202-224-2523 or 207-622-8414 or write her at 413 Dirksen Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20510 or 68 Sewall St., Room 507, Augusta, Me. 04330

Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) Call him at 202-224-4521 or at 602-840-1891 or write him at Senate Russell Office Building 413, Washington, D.C. 20510 or 2200 E. Camelback Road, Suite 120, Phoenix, Ariz. 85016.

Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) Call him at 202-224-6244 or 702-388-6605 or write him at 324 Hart Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20510 or 8930 W. Sunset Road, Suite 230, Las Vegas, Nev. 89148.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) Call her at 202-224-6665 or 907-271-3735 write her at 522 Hart Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20510 or at 510 L Street, Suite 600, Anchorage, Alaska 99501.

Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) Call him at 202-224-3353 or 614-469-6774 or write him at 448 Russell Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20510 or 37 W. Broad St., Room 300, Columbus, Ohio 43215.

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.

The healthcare bill passed by the House would lead to 14 million fewer people on Medicaid over the next decade. The Senate version could be even worse.

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.

Bradley-Springer said Planned Parenthood, which Republicans want to defund, helps people with HIV through testing and other medical care.

“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.

 

June 20, 2017