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COLUMN: Six members of PACHA resign due to presidential apathy


By Neeta Patwari



Six members of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS resigned last week, citing the president’s apathy toward treating the disease as their principal reason for doing so.

PAHCA was created in 1995 to provide information and give suggestions to the Secretary of Health and Human Resources on how to best direct funding toward the HIV/AIDS crisis. This led to the implementation of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy in 2010, which was later revised and re-implemented in 2015 under President Obama.

“As advocates for people living with HIV, we have dedicated our lives to combating this disease and no longer feel we can do so effectively within the confines of an advisory body to a president who simply does not care,” Scott Schoettes, a now former PACHA member, wrote in an article for Newsweek.

Unbeknownst to President Trump, HIV/AIDS isn’t an antiquated issue. Extensive research and progressive policies aimed at combating the disease should still be a priority in this day and age.

By failing to develop a strategy to minimize the rate of HIV/AIDS, the Trump administration opens the door for an even bigger epidemic to occur.

Unfortunately, and inaccurately, HIV is often characterized by the general public as being exclusive to the LGBT+ community, select countries in Africa and the spread of AIDS.

However, with the opiate crisis sweeping the nation, HIV and other blood-borne diseases are on the rise, especially in Indiana.

According to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, poor, rural communities in Indiana, where prevalence was once low, have seen an increase in HIV infection rates due to the use of opioid oxymorphone.

For example, prior to 2014, there were roughly 13,000 people with HIV in Indiana. However, between December 2014 and July 2015, there were 170 new cases in Scott County alone, almost all of which were from residents of Austin, Indiana, according to the International Antiviral Association.

Although then-Governor Mike Pence eventually allowed clean needles to be distributed to curb the outbreak, it took two months of personal prayer and pressure from the Scott County Sheriff to convince him, according to the New York Times.

Sadly, incidence rates like these are not restricted to Scott County. As the opioid crisis continues, more rural communities are becoming affected by a similar prevalence of HIV.

In America at-large, there were 40,000 new cases of HIV in 2015, 67 percent of which were in the gay community, but there was still an alarming rate of HIV infection among IV drug users, according to the Center for Disease Control.

This makes the recent resignation of six members of PACHA that much more disheartening, but still unsurprising.

Since taking office, President Trump hasn’t asked anyone to lead the Office of National AIDS Policy (ONAP), nor has its website been updated or replaced.

This is a gross neglect of office, which Trump should remedy immediately by appointing someone to head ONAP and continue the relevant and necessary mission of treating HIV/AIDS.

While there need to be priorities in government, the lack of attention allocated to HIV/AIDS policy by this administration is laughable.

The epidemic of the 1980s and 1990s was as bad as it was because of presidential administrations that ignored the ongoing crisis.

President Trump shouldn’t allow history to repeat itself.

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