Donald Trump fires entire HIV/AIDS advisory council

Gage Skidmore  Flickr

On Wednesday, U.S. President Donald Trump reportedly sent termination letters via FedEx to all 16 remaining members of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS (PACHA), a group that makes recommendations about the U.S. government's response to the HIV epidemic. No explanation was given by the president regarding their terminations, although some expect the firings are politically motivated.

It should be noted that, during the Obama administration, nearly all of George W. Bush's appointees were terminated prior to new appointees being named.

PACHA will continue with different members, executive director Kaye Hayes said in a statement, and the White House will now begin the task of making up to 25 new appointments.

Nonetheless, HIV and AIDS activists criticized the Trump administration. Scott Schoettes, a lawyer with Lambda Legal, a LGBT rights organization, was one of them. Fangerous that #Trump and Co. "(Pence esp.) are eliminating few remaining people willing to push back against harmful policies, like abstinence-only sex ed", Schoettes wrote, adding the hashtags "#WeObject" and "#Resist".

'All PACHA members are eligible to apply to serve on the new council that will be convened in 2018'. "Changing the makeup of federal advisory committee members is a common occurrence during administration changes", she said.

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Speaking to the Washington Post following the December removal of the remaining PACHA members, Schoettes alleged that loyalty to the president, not credentials, will likely be the driving factor in approving new nominations to the council, saying: "The only criteria for serving this president is loyalty".

"I can only speculate", said Gabriel Maldonado, a remaining member of PACHA. The firing of the council members "is another outlandish and despicable move by the Trump administration in his year-long effort to erase the LGBT community and the issues that disproportionately affect us", he said in a statement Friday. "Additionally, it is quite unusual to take such action between Christmas and New Year's, when much of Washington is closed and their PACHA members are home celebrating the holidays with loved ones".

During those meetings, he said the council had voiced concerns over the Trump administration's position on the Affordable Care Act, among other issues. "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 unsafe HIV policy decisions", he added. Globally, there are 37 million people estimated to be carrying the disease. He also wants more than $1 billion in cuts from worldwide programs like the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

Most of Maldonado's work involves addressing the "disproportionate impact of HIV and AIDS to people of color, gay men, transgender women".

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