WASHINGTON, D.C. — President Donald Trump fired the remaining ten members of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS (PACHA) without explanation during the final week of 2017. The news came via letter sent by FedEx.
The volunteer council was founded in 1995, and helps advise the President on the National HIV/AIDS Strategy.
Six members of the committee resigned in June, saying the Trump administration had no plan to combat HIV. One of those members, Scott Schoettes, wrote in an editorial for Newsweek that the administration “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…Because we do not believe the Trump Administration is listening to — or cares — about the communities we serve as members of PACHA, we have decided it is time to step down.”
“The decision to resign from government service is not one that any of us take lightly. However, we cannot ignore the many signs that the Trump Administration does not take the on-going epidemic or the needs of people living with HIV seriously,” he added.
The other five members who resigned signed onto the article, titled “Trump Doesn’t Care About HIV. We’re Out Of Here.”
“Current members of Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS (PACHA) received a letter informing them that the Administration was terminating their appointments,” said the council’s executive director, Kay Hayes.
“They were also thanked for their leadership, dedication and commitment to the effort. Changing the makeup of federal advisory committee members is a common occurrence during administration changes. The Obama administration dismissed the George W. Bush administration appointees to PACHA in order to bring in new voices. All PACHA members are eligible to apply to serve on the new council that will be convened in 2018,” Hayes said.
Former council members were quick to point out that it is traditional to allow current members to serve out their term.
“It is important to have a rolling, transitioning body that crosses administrations that really has a set of diverse outlooks on the epidemic,” Patrick Sullivan, appointed to a four-year term in May 2016, told the Washington Blade.
Gabriel Maldonado, whose term would have ended in 2018, questioned the timing of the firings, both for coming a full year into the Trump administration, as well as the fact that some of the Obama appointments were recently re-sworn in under Trump, when he extended PACHA through executive order in September 2017.
“For more than 22 years, the Presidential Advisory Commission on HIV/AIDS has worked under both Democratic and Republican Administrations to ensure Americans affected by this illness have a voice in our government,” said Peter Cruz, HRC’s Associate Director of the HIV and Health Equity Program. “In the midst of slashing social programs that the LGBTQ community relies on, this action taken by the Trump-Pence Administration is especially callous, irresponsible, and without logic.”
Trump was also recently criticized for his World AIDS Day statement, on Dec. 1, which failed to mention the LGBTQ community or people of color, the two communities most directly impacted by the HIV/AIDS epidemic in America.
Trump has also sought devastating cuts to HIV/AIDS programs, including $150 million on HIV/AIDS at home and over $1 billion in cuts from global programs.