On Wednesday, U.S. President Donald Trump reportedly sent termination letters via FedEx to all 16 remaining members of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS (PACHA), a group that makes recommendations about the U.S. government’s response to the HIV epidemic. The letters reportedly provided no explanation for the members’ firing. This Trump HIV Council firing has continued to raise serious concerns about the president’s interest in seriously addressing HIV domestically and abroad.
All of the fired PACHA council members had been appointed by former U.S. President Barack Obama. Councilmember Gabriel Maldonado told Newsweek the Trump HIV Council firing may have come purely from the president’s desire to clear the Council of its remaining Obama appointees.
Newsweek also reports that Obama fired all of the PACHA members appointed by his predecessor George W. Bush, meaning that Trump’s move isn’t unprecedented. It remains to be seen how soon Trump will re-staff PACHA.
However, Newsweek reports that HIV activists have criticized Trump’s response to the epidemic. The president’s 2018 fiscal year budget seeks $150 million in cuts from HIV research at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and more than than $1 billion removed from programs like the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
Trump’s 2017 World AIDS Day proclamation didn’t even mention LGBTQ people (although neither did the proclamations of some previous presidents). His proclamation spent most of its time talking about public and private investments in HIV treatment and prevention in other countries. It also mentioned the 1.1 million Americans currently living with HIV.
And Trump has yet to appoint a leader to the Office of National AIDS Policy or to put up a new government website for that office. If you go to that page at whitehouse.gov, it’s blank.
Trump’s support of the thrice defeated “Trumpcare” plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Healthcare Act (“Obamacare”) would’ve harmed countless Americans living with HIV.
Ben Plumley, Chief Executive Officer of Pangaea, an international HIV organization that works with funders and national governments to help at-risk populations, has said that if the U.S. lets HIV go unchecked at home and abroad, it will destabilize each country’s national security.
Featured image by Gage Skidmore via Flickr