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Add HIV to the Long List of Things Trump Doesn't Care About

Update Date: Jun 21, 2017 05:13 PM EDT
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Trump doesn't seem to care about HIV, and it shows. First, on Inauguration Day, when the Office of National AIDS Policy website was removed, and next in the resignation of six members of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS. In a Newsweek op-ed, one member wrote that Trump is "a president who simply does not care."

"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," said Scott Schoettes, who was appointed to the advisory counsel during Obama's administration.

Schoettes said that advisers of the Council on HIV/AIDS, known as PACHA, thought that the president lacked concern regarding this issue prior to his inauguration, but leaned on the hope that change was still possible.

After the website was taken down, they also noticed that the government website failed to mention anything about HIV.

What's more, Trump has neglected to appoint leaders to that office, which is vacant due to administration changes. "This means no one is tasked with regularly bringing salient issues regarding this ongoing public health crisis to the attention of the President and his closest advisers," said Schoettes.

The current draft of the House Republicans' healthcare plan removes protections for those with pre-existing conditions and cuts Medicaid coverage. Consequently, 40 percent of individuals who receive aid from Medicaid for HIV are severely affected.

"HIV was the mother of all pre-existing conditions. All an insurer had to do was look and see what medications you've been on, and it was immediately obvious," says Dr. Chris Beyrer, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for AIDS Research.

This bill also means that Medicaid no longer covers addiction treatment in some states. This puts people at a higher risk of contracting HIV, says Beyrer, because drugs like heroin that are administered intravenously make it easier for HIV to spread from one individual to another. In addition, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that other drugs usages are associated with HIV risk.

Not only is it a concern by advocates of HIV/AIDS issues that the 25 seats in PACHA have now turned to 15 members, they also have anxiety that the new proposed bill could reverse all of the hard work done to decrease HIV from growing. "We really cannot afford to be turning back the clock on these communities," explains Beyrer.

It's not too late to enact change. Schoettes says the response to his piece was "overwhelmingly positive." He believes he and the other previous members will be more influential as non-members of the counsel. They are "ready to engage" the Republican senators on these issues.

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