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Saturday, December 30, 2017


Donald Trump: HIV/AIDS activists have been deeply critical of the White House's approach over the past year

Donald Trump: HIV/AIDS activists have been deeply critical of the White House's approach over the past year

President Donald Trump fired the remaining members of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS (PACHA) Wednesday, reportedly informing them without explanation with a letter delivered by FedEx.

The mass dismissal of the advisers marked another nadir in the administration’s dealing with the council. In June, six members resigned from PACHA writing in an open letter, published in Newsweek, saying the Trump White House was pushing for legislation that would harm people living with HIV.

Scott A. Schoettes, a Chicago-based HIV/AIDS activist and one of the members of the advisory panel who resigned over the summer, tweeted yesterday that the remaining council members had been fired for calling President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence “dangerous.”

“Remaining #HIV/AIDS council members booted by @realDonaldTrump. No respect for their service,” Schoettes wrote on the social media site. “Dangerous that #Trump and Co. (Pence esp.) are eliminating few remaining people willing to push back against harmful policies, like abstinence-only sex ed,” he added.

Sources with knowledge of the terminations told the Washington Blade that council members had been fired despite having more time on their appointments.

Gabriel Maldonado, CEO of the LGBT and HIV/AIDS group Truevolution and a remaining member of PACHA  said the reasons for the firings remain unclear but may have been borne of a desire by the Trump administration to clear out appointments made by his predecessor Barack Obama.

“I can only speculate,” Maldonado said. “Like any administration, they want their own people there. Many of us were Obama appointees. I was an Obama appointee and my term was continuing until 2018.”

The decision by an administrator to clear house at PACHA is not unprecedented. The Obama administration eliminated all of George W. Bush’s appointees in the same way.

However, HIV/AIDS activists have been deeply critical of the White House’s approach over the past year. In the 2018 fiscal year budget, Trump has sought huge cuts to programs including $150 million on HIV/AIDS at the Centers for Disease Control. 

The administration has also sought more than $1 billion in cuts from global programs like the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria.

Just under a year into his first term, Trump has yet to appoint an HIV/AIDS chief, the first time since Bill Clinton created the position in 1993 that a president has failed to do so.

Impulse DC, a Washington-based HIV awareness, and advocacy group told Newsweek via email that to lose the expertize of the existing council threatens to unravel years of progress and efforts to end HIV. 

Sources close to the decision explained they suspect the charter for PACHA will be re-written with a renewed focus on abstinence and religious, non-evidence based public health approaches.

“Now is not the time for complacency,” President of Impulse DC Devin Barrington-Ward, said.“Every organization serving people living with HIV and fighting to end this epidemic must galvanize their networks of clients, staff, and volunteers to resist and fight back against these dangerous HIV policy decisions," he added.

Source: Newsweek

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