Fifteen months after firing all members of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS, President Trump has restaffed the advisory body with nine new appointments.
The Department of Health & Human Services confirmed the new appointments to PACHA morning Thursday morning after letters went out last week informing the new members of their appointments.
Brett P. Giroir, HHS assistant secretary for health, said in a statement the new members “will play a critical role” in responding to HIV/AIDS in the wake of Trump’s recently announced plan to end new HIV infections by 2030.
“More than 1 million Americans are living with HIV and nearly 40,000 are newly diagnosed with the virus each year,” Dr. Giroir said. “Working together, we have the opportunity to tackle some big issues, and I know our new members are up to the task.”
The new members are come from variety of professions, including the pharmaceutical industry, activism and academia.
Gregg Alton, chief patient officer for Gilead Sciences, Inc.;
Wendy Holman, CEO and Co-Founder of Ridgeback Biotherapeutics;
Marc Meachem, head of External Affairs North America for ViiV Healthcare;
Rafaelé Roberto Narváez, co-founder and director of Health Programs for Latinos Salud;
Michael Saag, professor of medicine and associate dean for global health at UAB School of Medicine and director of the University of Alabama at Birmingham Center for AIDS Research;
John Sapero. office chief for the HIV prevention program at the Arizona Department of Health Services;
Robert Schwartz, head of Dermatology at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School;
Justin Smith, aPh.D. Candidate at Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University; and
Ada Stewart, lead provider and HIV specialist at Eau Claire (South Carolina) Cooperative Health Centers.
The new members will join Carl Schmid, deputy director of the AIDS Institute, and John Wiesman, secretary of health in Washington State, who were already serving as co-chairs.
Created in 1995, PACHA has provided advice to the U.S. presidents on policy and research to promote effective treatment and prevention for HIV — maintaining the goal of finding a cure.
But PACHA has languished in the Trump administration. In June 2017, six members of the advisory council appointed during the Obama administration resigned in protest over the perceived inaction from Trump on HIV/AIDS.
Cited by the six members as evidence of inaction was Trump’s failure to appoint a director of the White House Office of National AIDS Policy, a position that still remains vacant to this day.
Six months later, as first reported by the Washington Blade, Trump terminated the remaining members of the council without explanation via letters sent to them via FedEx.
PACHA was entirely vacant for an entire year, but that changed in December as the Trump administration seemed to have awakened on HIV/AIDS.
In a speech recognizing gay people as among the victims of the epidemic, Secretary of Health & Human Services Alex Azar announced the new co-chairs for PACHA.
In the next month, Trump announced a new initiative during his State of the Union a new initiative to end new HIV infections in the United States by 2030. Trump’s fiscal year 2020 budget seeks $300 million for domestic HIV/AIDS to fulfill that commitment (although global programs are facing a steep cut).
The new members of PACHA will likely provide advice to the administration on pursuing Trump’s stated goal to beat HIV by 2030. After all, achieving that goal will require a multi-year sustained effort, not just additional money found in a single budget request.
PACHA will also have an additional goal: Updating the National AIDS Strategy developed under the Obama administration..
The 2010 strategy, which enumerated gay and bisexual men as groups vulnerable to the disease, is due for an update in 2020. The update is expected to reassess the epidemic domestically and make new goals in combatting it.
It remains to be seen what recommendation PACHA will make. A progress report from the Trump administration last year adopted Obama-era goals in combatting HIV/AIDS, which includes reducing the rate of new diagnoses among gay and bisexual men.