Six Experts Resign From President's HIV/AIDS Advisory Panel in Protest
President Donald Trump pauses during a press conference with Romania's President Klaus Iohannis in the Rose Garden of the White House June 9, 2017 in Washington, DC.Brendan Smialowski / AFP - Getty Images
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Six members of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS (PACHA) resigned in protest of the Trump administration, which they allege "has no strategy to address the on-going HIV/AIDS epidemic."
Scott Schoettes, Counsel and HIV Project Director at Lambda Legal, explained in a Newsweek op-ed Friday that he and five colleagues decided to leave their posts on the council for a number of reasons.
But their largest expressed gripe was that the Trump administration has not sought input from the council when formulating HIV policy.
Schoettes, who is HIV positive, added that the White House is also pushing legislation that would harm people with HIV and “reverse gains made in the fight against the disease.”
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"The decision to resign from government service is not one that any of us take lightly," Schoettes wrote on behalf of his colleagues. "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."
Lucy Bradley-Springer, Gina Brown, Ulysses W. Burley III, Michelle Ogle and Grissel Granados are the five other members who resigned.
The White House and the Department of Health and Human Services did not immediately respond to multiple requests for comment.
Formed in 1995 by President Bill Clinton, PACHA was created to counsel the White House about the AIDS epidemic. President George W. Bush renewed its charter in 2001.
The board can carry as many as 25 members, but it sat at 18 before the six members resigned. Members include doctors, scientists, HIV advocates, faith leaders, academics, legal experts, health care providers and public health officials.
Members typically serve four-year terms.
Schoettes and his colleagues often contrasted President Donald Trump with Barack Obama, whom they called a much more attentive steward of the council and whose Affordable Care Act “benefited people living with HIV and supported efforts to combat the HIV/AIDS epidemic."
In the op-ed, they note that Trump removed the Office of National AIDS Policy website and has not appointed someone to lead the White House Office of National AIDS Policy, who held a seat on the Domestic Policy Council under Obama.
"Because we do not believe the Trump Administration is listening to — or cares — about the communities we serve as members of PACHA, we have decided it is time to step down," Schoettes wrote.
"We will be more effective from the outside," he added, "advocating for change and protesting policies that will hurt the health of the communities we serve and the country as a whole if this administration continues down the current path."
Phil McCausland is an NBC News reporter focused on the rural-urban divide.