Prizm News / October 1, 2018 / By Rebecca Huff

Scott Schoettes resigned last year from the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS but remains in his job as HIV project director for Lambda Legal. (Photo by Jason Smith)

Scott Schoettes led a revolt last year on a presidential advisory panel. He’ll talk about ‘trumping apathy with truth’ at a conference this month on LGBTQ health.

 

By Rebecca Huff

The man who resigned last year from the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS with an open letter in Newsweek titled, “Trump Doesn’t Care About HIV. We’re Outta Here,” will speak this month at an LGBTQ health conference in Columbus.

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Scott Schoettes, the Chicago-based, HIV project director for Lambda Legal, is one of four headline speakers lined up for the 2018 Transforming Care Conference, hosted by the Equitas Health Institute for LGBTQ Health Equity and scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 18 and Friday, Oct. 19 at Ohio State University’s Fawcett Center.

Attendees at the 2017 Transforming Care Conference. (Photo by Emma Parker)

 

The two-day conference will cover health, healthcare, access and advocacy issues for all people on the LGBTQ community. More than 75 sessions are on the schedule, designed for activists, academics, community members, and health and social service professionals.

Schoettes will host a Thursday afternoon session about HIV criminalization and deliver a Friday morning address titled, “Trumping Apathy With Truth and Fierce Resistance.”

It’s a topic he knows well.

Schoettes was appointed by President Barack Obama to the HIV advisory council known as PACHA. Living openly with HIV and having a legal background fighting discrimination against others living with the virus has made him an expert.

But he and several colleagues on the panel became uneasy last year with the new Trump administration, its policies and interactions with the HIV community. During the campaign, according to Schoettes, Trump refused to meet with HIV/AIDS advocates. On the day he took office, the White House shut down the White House Office on National AIDS Policy.

An introductory letter from PACHA members was answered in a pro-forma manner, he said, and a second letter ion letter was ignored. Even then, that wasn’t the straw that broke the camel’s back, Schoettes said.

For Schoettes and others, that came when the administration began pushing to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which ended up failing in the U.S. Senate. The 2010 law also known as Obamacare has helped people living with HIV by guaranteeing coverage for those with pre-existing conditions, expanding eligibility for Medicaid and lowering prescription drug costs for those on Medicare.

In June 2017, Schoettes and five other members of the advisory council resigned. Trump quickly fired the whole group.

“This president does not want to hear anything that is in any way critical of him or his administration. I think that’s why he decided to fire the rest,” Schoettes says.

When asked if resigning did more harm than good, he says: “By resigning, especially in the middle of the Affordable Care Act debate, I know that we brought a lot more attention to this issue and put it on people’s radar as something we need to be thinking about.”

Schoettes still has hope progress can be made. There are a lot of dedicated and caring people at the federal Department of Health and Human Services who understand the issues that need to be addressed, he says. But advocates on the outside need to keep speaking out.

“We are at a critical time, I think, in the fight against HIV and AIDS, and we should not be letting up.”

Rebecca Huff, a freelance writer from Cincinnati, also wrote in our October issue about the revival of tea dances in her hometown.

FIND OUT MORE

Visit transformingcareconference.com for more information about the two-day 2018 conference that will take place on Thursday, Oct. 18 and Friday, Oct. 19.

Registration for the Transforming Care Conference runs from $50 for students (it’s cheaper for a one-day pass) to $150 for the general public to $325 for licensed medical professionals. Email transformingcare@equitashealth.com with questions.

Other speakers at the 2018 conference include Sarah McBride, the national press secretary for the Human Rights Campaign and author of “Tomorrow Will Be Different: Love, Loss, and the Fight for Trans Equality”; Ken Williams, a speaker, storyteller, HIV activist and creative force behind the award-winning, queer- conscious video blog, “Ken Like Barbie”; and Miriam Yeung, former executive director of the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum.

• Lambda Legal is a national organization committed to achieving full recognition of the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people and everyone living with HIV through impact litigation, education and public policy work. Visit lambdalegal.org.

• The Equitas Health Institute for LGBTQ Health Equity is the education, research and community engagement arm of Equitas Health, focusing on reducing health disparities in the LGBTQ community. Visit equitashealthinstitute.com to learn more. Equitas Health also is the publisher of Prizm.