Trump fires HIV/Aids council

30 December 2017

Continuing his effort to staff executive boards with loyalists, president Donald Trump fired the 16 remaining members of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS (PACHA). They reportedly received the communication through a letter delivered by FedEx.

''Like any administration, they want their own people there,'' Gabriel Maldonado, one of the former members, told Washington Blade. ''Many of us were Obama appointees. I was an Obama appointee and my term was continuing until 2018.''

He added that ''ideological and philosophical differences'' with the Trump administration could have been the cause of his firing, and that he routinely encountered resistance towards his work aiding ''people of colour, gay men, [and] transgender women.''

Scott A Schoettes, a Chicago-based HIV/AIDS activist who resigned from the council in summer, termed the firings ''a purge'' and ''#fascist'' over Twitter.  After he was fired in June along with five others, Schoettes wrote an op-ed for Newsweek berating the president's ''lack of understanding and concern'' over the AIDS epidemic.

The Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS (PACHA) was founded during the Clinton administration and has promoted treatment and prevention of HIV, with the ultimate goal of finding a cure.

Though it is not unusual for incoming administrations to staff committees with members more in line with their political party (such as when former president Barack Obama cleaned house from the Bush administration), the Trump White House has sought massive cuts to HIV/AIDS programmes.

The Washington Post reported that the terminations were effective immediately, citing epidemiologist Patrick Sullivan.

Sullivan had been appointed to a four-year term in May 2016 under former US president Barack Obama.

The committee was founded in 1995 to provide advice to the administration regarding policies and research on the treatment, prevention and curing of HIV and AIDS.

"The Trump Administration has no strategy to address the on-going HIV/AIDS epidemic, seeks zero input from experts to formulate HIV policy," Schoettes told The Washington Post.

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