Trump fires entire HIV/AIDS advisory council via FedEx letter

SAUL LOEB via Getty Images
A red ribbon in recognition of World AIDS Day hangs from the North Portico of the White House in Washington D.C

President Trump, pictured with Vice President Mike Pence, fired all remaining 16 members on his HIV/AIDS advisory council earlier this week. No explanation was given by the president regarding their terminations, although some expect the firings are politically motivated. Some 25 members can be commissioned for the council, also known as "PACHA", but as November only 10 members were listed on the council's website. Gabriel Maldonado, chief executive of the LGBT and HIV/AIDS group Truevolution and a council member until this week, said he could only speculate why the final members were fired. "The Obama Administration dismissed the George W. Bush Administration appointees to PACHA in order to bring in new voices", she said.

Cecilia Chung, an Obama-era appointee who left voluntarily after her term expired earlier this year, echoed these concerns. In June, six members resigned, including Schoettes.

HIV/AIDS activist and senior attorney for Lambda Lega, Scott Schoettes, tweeted about it.

"No respect for their service", Schoettes said. "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. "Like any administration, they want their own people there".

"I knew that the people that remained were speaking their truth, and I've got a feeling that was not appreciated", he said. Six members had resigned in June, protesting the Trump administration's lack of action regarding the disease.

The administration gave no reason for the firing. Over 1 million people in the United States are living with HIV, with the most vulnerable populations being gay and bisexual men, particularly African American gay and bisexual men, according to HHS. Reports came out that Trump, behind closed doors and complaining about immigration statistics, was allegedly upset that tens of thousands of Haitians came to the US each year, telling advisers the immigrants from that nation "all have AIDS".

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It's unclear if the administration will continue the council and when they'll introduce new members.

But gay rights advocates say the Trump administration has been discriminatory in a subtle way, leaving out any reference to the LGBTQ community from their statements. "Two, many of us, our terms were over earlier this year and we were sworn back in, and three were stayed on almost four months after an executive order was signed continuing the council".

The White House did not immediately respond for comment.

"We certainly have been vocal that repeal of the Affordable Care Act would worsen health and increase new HIV infections", Sullivan said.

Trump's fiscal year 2018 budget proposal also sought massive cuts to HIV/AIDS programs, including $150 million on HIV/AIDS programs at the Centers of Disease Control and more than $1 billion in cuts from global programs like PEPFAR Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis & Malaria.

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