Six months after multiple members of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS (PACHA) resigned, President Donald Trump’s administration has reportedly fired the remaining 16 members through a FedEx letter. No explanation was given by the president regarding their terminations, although some expect the firings are politically motivated.
Gabriel Maldonado, one of the 16 members fired this week, fears “ideological and philosophical differences” ultimately led to the terminations.
“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.”
PACHA was founded during the Clinton administration amid the AIDS’ crisis peak in the ’90s—over 500,000 AIDS cases were reported in 1995 alone—and was designed to help presidents manage policy and research on HIV and AIDS. Medications have advanced since then, making HIV a much more manageable diagnosis for many Americans. But some fear the Trump administration will both diminish support for LGBTQ and HIV/AIDS activism and increase the stigmatization around being HIV-positive, which could lead to further infections and a lower quality of life for those living with the virus and disease.
Scott Schoettes, a senior attorney for Lambda Legal who resigned from the council in June, considers the firings “dangerous.”
“Remaining #HIV/AIDS council members booted by @realDonaldTrump. No respect for their service,” Schoettes wrote over Twitter. “Dangerous that #Trump and Co. (Pence esp.) are eliminating few remaining people willing to push back against harmful policies, like abstinence-only sex ed.”
As for PACHA’s future, it remains unclear. Earlier this fall, Trump renewed the advisory committee for an additional year. But the Trump administration previously proposed cuts to global spending programs designed to make HIV medication affordable for people around the world, suggesting that the administration is deprioritizing HIV and AIDS care at best. As a result, PACHA may remain dormant. Or alternatively, the Trump administration may install more conservative council members.
“I was co-chair of the disparities committee, so much of my advocacy and policy references surrounded vulnerable populations, addressing issuing of diverse communities, specifically looking at the impacts of the LGBT community, namely, the disproportionate impact of HIV and AIDS to people of color, gay men, transgender women,” Maldonado told the Blade. “And a lot of those key vulnerable populations are not being prioritized in this administration.”