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 advisors 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,” Shoettes 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 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 of Disease Control. The administration has also sought more than than $1 billion in cuts from global programs like the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis & Malaria.
Just under a year into his first term, Trump is also 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.