The Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS, known by the acronym PACHA, has advised the White House on HIV/AIDS policies since its founding in 1995. Members, who are not paid, offer recommendations on the National HIV/AIDS Strategy, a five-year plan responding to the epidemic in the USA. The group is designed to include “doctors, members of industry, members of the community and, very importantly, people living with HIV,” said Scott Schoettes, a lawyer with the LGBT rights organization Lambda Legal. “Without it, you lose the community voice in policymaking.” Months after a half-dozen members resigned in protest of the Trump administration’s position on health policies, the White House dismissed all of the rest through a form letter.
Schoettes was among those who quit in June, and he went out with a fiery commentary in Newsweek. “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,” he wrote in the column.
PACHA’s website now showed two staffers and no council members. New members will be sought in due course, but Schoettes is not optimistic that they will recruit qualified people. “The only criteria for serving this president is loyalty,” he said. “From the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] to this body, to the FBI, there is a real problem this president has with dialogue or dissent.”
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