President Donald Trump on Wednesday fired the remaining 16 members of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS (PACHA) without explanation via a letter from FedEx, reports Newsweek.
In June, six PACHA members resigned over Trump’s inaction on HIV/AIDS, including Scott Schoettes, a Chicago-based HIV/AIDS activist and senior attorney for Lambda Legal.
“No respect for their service,” Schoettes said after the mass firing. “Dangerous that #Trump and Co. (Pence esp.) are eliminating few remaining people willing to push back against harmful policies, like abstinence-only sex ed.”
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
The Washington Blade reported that council members had been fired despite having more time on their appointments.
Gabriel Maldonado, CEO of the LGBT and HIV/AIDS group Truevolution and a remaining member of PACHA speculates that the firings could have been a result of Trump’s desire 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 and Malaria.
Trump has yet to appoint an HIV/AIDS chief.
“Now is not the time for complacency,” said Devin Barrington-Ward, the President of the Washington-based HIV awareness and advocacy group Impulse Group DC. “Every organization serving people living with HIV and fighting to end this epidemic must galvanize their networks of clients, staff, and volunteers to resist and fight back against these dangerous HIV policy decisions,” he added.