All 16 members of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS (PACHA) were fired by President Donald Trump this week, without any explanation given for their termination.
Newsweek reports that the 16 members received their notice of termination by FedEx mail on Wednesday. Although the reason behind their departure wasn’t officially given, one former member of the council suggested that the members had objected to failed policy ideas, such as abstinence-only education, implying that dissent played a role in their removal.
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
Gabriel Maldonado, who had been on the council before being fired on Wednesday, also suggested that Trump wanted to clear the board of any remaining members from the administration of former President Barack Obama.
“Like any administration, they want their own people there,” said Maldonado, who heads an LGBT and HIV/AIDS organization called Truevolution. “Many of us were Obama appointees. I was an Obama appointee, and my term was continuing until 2018.”
The council and Trump have butted heads before. Six members of PACHA resigned from the council back in June, stating that their departure then had to do with Trump’s negligence on the important issue.
“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 A. Schoettes, an HIV/AIDS activist, wrote on behalf of the resigning members this past summer.
Trump’s ignorance on the issue was evident last week, as well. 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 United States each year, telling advisers the immigrants from that nation “all have AIDS.”
It’s unclear whether he actually said that or not — the allegation came from an unnamed source, and Trump has further denied he made those comments. But what is clear is that Trump has no feasible plan for combating the virus, in the U.S. or elsewhere, nor does he have any interest in finding new treatments for those who are afflicted with AIDS.
Trump’s proposed budget, for example, which significantly cut funding for HIV/AIDS prevention and education measures, could lead to millions of deaths according to a report from the ONE Campaign.
The firing of the remaining board members provides further evidence that the Trump administration isn’t interested in the issue. His negligence, however, doesn't change the fact that millions of Americans deal with the effects of HIV and AIDS on a daily basis. Their concerns should also be the president’s concerns, and it’s disheartening to see that Trump would rather gamble with their lives than actually do something helpful for them.