Crisis struck the President's Advisory Council on HIV and AIDS this summer after President Trump slashed funding and set his sights on Obamacare. Now, months later, no one involved can agree on how to fix things.
Five of the members of PACHA ultimately quit in protest, but other members, who say they are equally upset with the Trump administration, decided to stay.
The split demonstrated the questions activists and health professionals have been asking themselves in the face of an administration that doesn’t seem to care about their work. Do they try to get inside the administration and change minds? Or is it more meaningful to try to make as much noise as possible from the outside?
But it’s also a story of the politics of HIV/AIDS today. Fighting HIV/AIDS has political momentum it didn’t have decades ago in the early years of the domestic crisis, when a Republican-led government posted a major roadblock for activists who labored under the Reagan White House, where HIV/AIDS was, at best, ignored and, at worst, openly mocked.
Things are a little different now. The current GOP congress opposed the budget cuts to HIV/AIDS programs Trump wanted, and the Trump administration has kept up public support for PEPFAR, the celebrated global HIV/AIDS program that was started by George W. Bush. (Though for how long remains unclear: Trump has proposed cutting the budget for that too.)
But the fight against HIV/AIDS is still looking tough under Trump. There’s no National Director of AIDS Policy at the current White House, a shift from previous administrations, and people involved in the domestic crisis say they are still trying to figure out what to do.
VICE News sat down with HIV/AIDS activists who say they feel abandoned by the Trump administration.
VICE News also sat down with Deborah Birx, a veteran of the HIV/AIDS fight, who was appointed to run PEPFAR by President Barack Obama, and has stayed on under Trump. She talked about serving both administrations:
This segment originally aired November 30, 2017, on VICE News Tonight on HBO.