President Trump fired the remaining members of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS, known as PACHA, without explanation by FedEx letter on Wednesday.
Six members of the commission had already resigned over the summer, claiming the Trump administration's actions would harm people with HIV, including its failure to name a director of the Office of National AIDS Policy. But several of the remaining members had time left in their terms.
Scott A. Schoettes, a Chicago-based HIV/AIDS activist and a council member who resigned last 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. “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.
Gabriel Maldonado, CEO of LGBT and HIV/AIDS group Truevolution and a remaining member of the advisory board, told the Washington Blade that the reasons for the mass termination were unclear. “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.”
Maldonado said “ideological and philosophical differences” may have come into play, citing a recent report that the Centers for Disease Control could no longer use words like “diversity” and “transgender” in budget documents. “Much of my advocacy and policy references surrounded vulnerable populations, namely, the disproportionate impact of HIV and AIDS to people of color, gay men, transgender women,” Maldonado said. “A lot of those key vulnerable populations are not being prioritized in this administration.”
PACHA was created in 1995 and advises the president on treatment and prevention of HIV. In September, Trump signed an executive order extending PACHA and 31 other presidential advisory boards for another year. Wholesale turnover on the board isn't unprecedented — the Obama administration fired all of George W. Bush's appointees before replacing them with his own. But Maldonado said that several members were sworn back in for terms earlier this year under Trump.
Trump's proposed 2018 budget would have included major cuts to HIV/AIDS policy, including $150 million in HIV/AIDS programs at the CDC and $1 billion in global aid to fight the epidemic. But Congress opted to continue funding the programs at their previous levels.