December 6, 2018 at 12:15 pm PST | by Chris Johnson
HIV/AIDS council set to hold meeting — but Trump still hasn’t appointed members

The White House on World AIDS Day in 2015. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS is set to hold a meeting in March, even though the council still has no members nearly a year after President Trump terminated its remaining advisers without explanation.

According to an entry from Department of Health & Human Services set for publication in the Federal Register on Friday, PACHA “will be holding a meeting and will discuss recommendations regarding programs, policies, and research to promote effective prevention, treatment and cure of HIV disease and AIDS” on March 14-15, 2019.

The meeting will be open to the public, the notice says, except the sessions will include a closed session on March 14 “for administrative briefings to be presented to the new council members.”

Created in 1995 by President Clinton, PACHA is charged with advising the president on policy and research to promote effective treatment and prevention for HIV — maintaining the goal of finding a cure. The council served as an advisory body during the Clinton, Bush and Obama administrations, but has largely been inactive in the Trump era.

As first reported by the Washington Blade, Trump terminated all remaining members of PACHA in December 2017 via a letter delivered by FedEx. Since that time, the council has been vacant, the administration has announced no new members and its fate has remained unclear.

In June 2017, six advisers on the panel resigned over Trump’s perceived inaction in addressing the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Top of the list of concerns was Trump’s refusal to appoint a director for the White House Office of National AIDS Policy, which is a position that remains unfilled to this day.

Kaye Hayes, executive director of PACHA, said in response to a Blade inquiry on how the council can meet without any members HHS is “pleased the first meeting of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS has been scheduled.”

“We do not have a final list of members to share at this time,” Hayes added.

Carl Schmid, deputy director of the AIDS Institute, said he understands the administration is vetting “potential new members going through clearance and ethics for conflicts of interest, etc.”

The administration is due in 2020 to introduce an update to the National AIDS Strategy produced during the Obama administration. In the meantime, the Trump administration issued a progress report in June signaling it intends to adopt the Obama-era goals of fighting the epidemic, including reductions of new infections in the LGBT community, which the disease disproportionately affects.

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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