On February 2, 2010, the day of its first meeting, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced the appointment of 24 new members to the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS (PACHA). PACHA’s chair, Dr. Helene Gayle, President and Chief Executive Officer of CARE-USA, was announced in August 2009. PACHA is tasked with providing advice, information, and recommendations to the Secretary of Health and Human Services about programs and policies aimed at promoting effective HIV prevention, and to advance research on HIV/AIDS. The role of the Council is solely advisory.[i]
According to a press release from the Department of Health and Human Services, “This council of HIV/AIDS experts is composed of a diverse group of researchers, service providers, and community leaders from around the country, including people living with HIV. The Council also includes people who are from community-based organizations that cater to the medical, legal, or mental health needs of people living with HIV and AIDS.”
“We are excited and ready to work with this new PACHA to ensure that all young people, here in the United States and abroad, are getting the information they need to prevent HIV and make healthy and responsible decisions over the course of their lives,” said Jen Heitel Yakush, director of public policy at SIECUS.
During the first meeting of this new PACHA, there was an open session to allow public comments on the organization and mission of the council. SIECUS’ Senior International Policy Associate Ariana Childs Graham provided comments on the need for a clear PACHA agenda, funding for comprehensive sexuality education, and policies that are based on science instead of ideology, among other issues.
While the HIV/AIDS community seems pleased with the selection of members who were appointed to PACHA, advocates note that some representation is still missing from the advisory council. Many are particularly upset with the lack of representation of African-American women on the council who are HIV positive. The National Black Women's HIV/AIDS Network (NBWHAN) released a statement noting its astonishment and disappointment that “this Administration has chosen to follow the practices of past Administrations and continues to ignore African-American women in this nation living with and affected by HIV and AIDS.”[ii] According to the CDC, women account for more than one quarter of all new HIV/AIDS diagnoses in the United States.[iii] NBWHAN notes that Black women account for the largest share of new HIV infections among women and the incidence rate among Black women is nearly 15 times the rate among white women. In addition, Black women account for the majority of new AIDS cases among women (66%) and represent more than one third (36%) of AIDS cases diagnosed among Blacks ( Black men and women combined).[iv]
“Our concern is not about who the 25 members of PACHA are, but who the members are not,” said Barbara Joseph, Co-Chair of NBWHAN. “Given the CDC's data I'm confused why only two African-American women have been selected to serve on PACHA,” continued Joseph. As a woman who has lived with HIV for 27 years and who has provided services on the ground for 20 years it seems to me that its politics as usual,” she added. The National Black Women's HIV/AIDS Network is calling on President Obama, Secretary Sebelius, and Christopher Bates, Executive Director of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS “to take another look at PACHA and expand the table to ensure that the voice of African-American women is not silenced.”[v]
For more information about PACHA, visit http://www.aids.gov/federal-resources/policies/pacha/.
[i]Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS, “About PACHA,” accessed 9 February 2009, <http://www.aids.gov/federal-resources/policies/pacha/>.
[ii] The National Black Women’s HIV/AIDS Network, “Statement on the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS,” Press Release, received via email 2 February 2010.
[iii] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Fact Sheet HIV/AIDS Among Women, accessed 9 February 2009, <http://www.cdc.gov/ hiv/topics/ women/resources/ factsheets/ women.htm.>
[iv] CDC, HIV/AIDS Surveillance Report, 2009.
[v] “Statement on the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS.”