- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Despite resignations by six members of the White House Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS earlier this month, President Trump reaffirmed his administration’s commitment to fighting the disease and encouraged the public to be diligent in taking care of their own health.

On Tuesday, the White House released a statement marking National HIV Testing Day, highlighting that early detection through testing is one of the best resources the public has to combat the deadly virus.

“HIV has been one of the world’s most significant health challenges since it was first identified 35 years ago. Greater awareness through testing is crucial in defeating HIV and AIDS. Thankfully, because of progress in testing and treatment, we have never been closer to conquering the epidemic,” Mr. Trump said in a statement.

Advancements in treatment for Human Immunodeficiency Virus, which first appeared in the early 1980s among gay men in Los Angeles, include a cocktail of therapies that suppress the disease to the point where a person can expect to live a long life and significantly reduce the potential to infect someone else.

Additionally, people who are at high risk for contracting the disease can take “pre-exposure prophylaxis” (PreP) medication to prevent infection.

At least one in seven people don’t know they are infected with HIV and this contributes to new infections. The capital in particular has the worst statistics in the nation when it comes to the prevalence of HiV, disproportionately affecting men who have sex with men, black women, and minority communities.

“My Administration is determined to build upon these improvements and continue supporting domestic and global health programs that prioritize testing and treatment for HIV/AIDS,” Mr. Trump continued in the statement.

However, in an open letter published in Newsweek on June 16, six members of the presidential council on HIV announced their resignation in protest.

“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,” Scott A. Schoettes wrote in the op-ed. He is a counsel and HIV Project director at Lamda Legal and former member of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS (PACHA).

PACHA was established in 1995 to provide council and recommendations to the White House on HIV/AIDS programming, policy and legislation.

Among the charges of negligence leveled at Mr. Trump from Mr. Schoettes were taking down the Office of National AIDS Policy website with no replacement, no appointee to lead the White House Office of National AIDS Policy, and the handling of the repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act.

Other signatories to the letter included Lucy Bradley-Springer, Gina Brown, Ulysses W. Burley III, Michelle Ogle and Grissel Granados.

The White House denied the allegations at the time with a representative telling CNN that members of the Domestic Policy Council met with representatives from the HIV/AIDS group several times and that Katy Talento was appointed as the council’s health policy lead. The White House representative also told CNN that members of PACHA did not reach out to Ms. Talento or the Domestic Policy Council director with their concerns before publishing the letter.

In response, Mr. Schoettes told CNN that PACHA reports to the secretary of Health and Human Services and was advised not to direct their communication to the White House.

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