In June, six members of President Donald Trump's Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS (PACHA), resigned over the presidents’s policies on health care. The 22 member council was responsible for advising the secretary of Health and Human Services on the best HIV treatment and prevention strategies.
“The Trump Administration has no strategy to address the on-going 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, counsel and HIV Project director at Lambda Legal, wrote at the time.
And now, the remaining 16 members of PACHA have been told they were fired on Wednesday by means of a FedExed letter from the White House.
Gabriel Maldonado, a PACHA adviser, confirmed the firings, but said the “explanation is still unclear.”
"Like any administration, they want their own people there,” Maldonado told the Washington Blade. “Many of us were Obama appointees. I was an Obama appointee and my term was continuing until 2018.”
Scott Schoettes, a council member who quit in June, called the Trump move a “purge:”
Remaining #HIV/AIDS council members booted by @realDonaldTrump. No respect for their service. Dangerous that #Trump and Co. (Pence esp.) are eliminating few remaining people willing to push back against harmful policies, like abstinence-only sex ed. #WeObject #PACHA6 #Resist— Scott A. Schoettes (@PozAdvocate) December 28, 2017
.@realDonaldTrump executing a purge: remaking the courts; ppl who use “transgender” and “vulnerable” out at HHS; #PACHA (#HIV council) members gone; wants to eliminate ppl @ FBI who didn’t vote for him; attempts to undermine free press. #Fascist #TrumpRussia #WeObject #Resist— Scott A. Schoettes (@PozAdvocate) December 28, 2017
Schoettes confirmed the firings with The Independent, adding:
“I knew that the people that remained were speaking their truth, and I’ve got a feeling that was not appreciated. I think this is a President and an administration that doesn’t value dialogue and dissenting views.”
Kaye Hayes, Pacha’s executive director, said in a statement:
“On December 27, 2017, the current members of Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/Aids (Pacha) received a letter informing them that the Administration was terminating their appointments. They were also thanked for their leadership, dedication and commitment to the effort.”
Hayes said that changing the makeup of federal advisory committees is “a common occurrence during Administration changes,” and that former President Barack Obama had dismissed appointees from the Bush presidency.
While changes in advisers are common place, every president since Clinton has appointed a leader of the White House Office of National Aids Policy within their first year. So far, President Donald Trump has not. President Trump has also proposed a $186m reduction in HIV/Aids funding at the Centres for Disease Control. Around $150 million of which would come from prevention programs.
Twitter users didn't seem to be surprised by the news.
Not even surprised, they want us all to disappear as if there are no gay people. While they continue their criminal sexual acts against women and under aged kids. Yay GOP, Conservative, family values— NOM NOM Boris 🏳️🌈 (@nomnomboris) December 29, 2017
Is there anything that can be done to help fight this decision?— Jen Merritt (@menjerritt) December 29, 2017
So Trump has disbanded the Presidents Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS (PACHA). A recap and some thoughts.— George M Johnson (@IamGMJohnson) December 29, 2017
So we are clear in January they shut down ONAP (Office of National Aids Policy)
By May they suggested cuts of closer to 1.2 billion dollars combined domestically and globally. This led to 6 members leaving the council. In September, the actual budget kept HIV funding stable based on prior years.— George M Johnson (@IamGMJohnson) December 29, 2017
And now, he has eliminated the Council.
This fight is far from over, and despite the constant attacks from this administration, HIV activists and advocates have been here before. We did not give up when Reagan was on his bullshit, and we will not stop now because Trump has always been bullshit.— George M Johnson (@IamGMJohnson) December 29, 2017
If anything, find a renewed spirit to continue to do the work to end this administration, work on a grassroots approach where community helps community for the shortcomings of an anti-black establishment.— George M Johnson (@IamGMJohnson) December 29, 2017
Trump disbanded the President's HIV/AIDS Council without explanation.— Pé Resists (@4everNeverTrump) December 29, 2017
Well, the reasoning is simple: it's because the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the USA disproportionately affects gay/bisexual men and people of color; i.e., homophobia and bigotry.
What do you think?