In a decision denounced as “dangerous” and “appalling,” President Donald Trump has enraged members of the public health and LGBTQ communities by reportedly firing the remaining 16 members of his HIV/AIDS council in letters delivered to them by FedEx on Thursday.
Six members of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS (PACHA) had resigned in protest earlier this year, as Common Dreams reported, on the grounds that the Trump administration “has no strategy to address the ongoing HIV/AIDS epidemic, seeks zero input from experts to formulate HIV policy, and—most concerning—pushes legislation that will harm people living with HIV and halt or reverse important gains made in the fight against this disease.”
Scott Schoettes, a Lambda Legal senior attorney who resigned from PACHA in June, tweeted about Thursday’s firings, claiming Trump has “no respect for their service” and warning about what future HIV/AIDS policy may look like under this president:
Gabriel Maldonado, head of the LGBTQ and HIV/AIDS group Truevolution and a remaining member of PACHA, confirmed the firings to the Washington Blade, but added that the “explanation is still unclear” and “I can only speculate” as to why they were dismissed.
“Like any administration, they want their own people there,” Maldonado said, acknowledging “ideological and philosophical differences” and that many of the remaining members, including her, were appointed by former President Barack Obama.
“I was co-chair of the disparities committee,” Maldonado added, “so much of my advocacy and policy references surrounded vulnerable populations, addressing issuing of diverse communities, specifically looking at the impacts of the LGBT community, namely, the disproportionate impact of HIV and AIDS to people of color, gay men, transgender women…and a lot of those key vulnerable populations are not being prioritized in this administration.”
Sources close to the decision told Newsweek “they suspect the charter for PACHA will be re-written with renewed focus on abstinence and religious, non-evidence based public health approaches.” Newsweek noted that while the Obama administration also dismissed all panel members who were appointed by his predecessor, George W. Bush, the current administration has been particularly complacent on the issue, and “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.”
Critics swiftly denounced the firings on social media, including one who noted that with this decision, the Trump “administration appears to be blatantly admitting it will do nothing about HIV/AIDS epidemic.”
Some accused the president of trying to appease his more religious supporters, while others noted Vice President Mike Pence’s influence over the administration and his track record on HIV/AIDS.
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