No joke. HIV disappeared from The White House. Now, was not the time either.
It has been 500 days since Donald Trump became President of the United States. And it has been 500 days since The White House had any substantial leadership working on behalf of the HIV epidemic or talking prevention strategies.
And the blame for that must be shared by us all.
Sure there has been big news stories written about the drama with the HIV community and President Trump: the resignation of 6 PACHA (Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS) members in June 2017 , the firing of the remaining members on PACHA in December 2017 via a fed-ex letter, and the HIV and HPV confusion as told by Bill Gates—the White House has been completely missing-in-action on issues relating to HIV and AIDS.
In early 2018, the Trump administration released a statement that they were currently in a nomination process to refill the fired advisory council, but no additional information has been given and no specific timeline has been explained.
Why does it matter?
For the first time in the epidemic, we are seeing a national adoption of PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis)—a daily pill used by HIV negative individuals to prevent infection, an international movement supporting science and research that those living with HIV that maintain an undetectable viral load cannot transmit HIV to a sexual partner called #UequalsU, and the U.S is hosting an international HIV conference. Yet, we have failed to have any substantial progress or leadership from The White House.
But that must change! How?
We need to pressure the Trump administration and others to choose new members of PACHA, hold government accountable about their lack of involement in HIV awareness, demand that the administration begins to support national awareness days, open a dialogue between advocates and nonprofits about the state of HIV and unite to demand the re-opening the Office of National AIDS Policy, and we must insist that no more cuts to HIV grants funding.
We also need to learn from our own mistakes—allowing The White House to become silent on HIV issues because our self-appointed leaders, the HIV mafia, were busy jockeying over leadership roles and administration positions with a candidate that didn’t win—not considering that Trump might actually win the election. I’m not suggesting that they are the reason why HIV is missing from The White House, but I am suggesting that they didn’t consider the possibility that Clinton might not win, and when she lost, they stood shocked that their White House invitations would be a thing of the past. (Trust me… they big orgs and star players all undercut each other at the big federal level at The White House. I saw it firsthand. It was disgusting.)
So, let’s all wake up, regroup, and refocus our efforts on getting a sleeping administration back in the HIV awareness game or we might lose some of the ground we gained during the two previous administrations work. This is really life or death. We are literally working to save lives.
There is no time for submitting resumes, activists—we all have our work already cut out for us and you already have a job you signed up by being an activist. So, get to work!