Members of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS (PACHA) got an envelope from FedEx yesterday. Inside was a short letter informing them they had been fired without warning.
Six members of the council resigned in June to protest Trump‘s apathy towards the epidemic and his attempts to take health care access away from people living with HIV/AIDS.
The PACHA was created in 1995 during the Clinton administration to provide recommendations about the government’s response to the HIV epidemic. The Bush administration continued the council’s charter and during the Obama administration the council created and monitored the National HIV/AIDS Strategy.
Scott Schoettes, HIV Project Director at Lambda Legal, wrote in Newsweek why he and five of his colleagues decided to leave the PACHA.
“The Trump Administration has no strategy to address the on-going [sic] 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.”
After the news broke that the remaining members had been fired, Schoettes fired off a response on Twitter, writing
“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.”
Former council member Gabriel Maldonado, CEO of the LGBT and HIV/AIDS group Truevolution, confirmed the firing to the Washington Blade, saying the “explanation is still unclear.”
“I can only speculate.”
Maldonado pointed to a recent news report that the CDC had been banned from using words like “transgender,” “science-based,” “vulnerable” and “diversity.” The CDC director has denied those words are “banned” and said they were suggestions on how to get a project funded under the Trump administration. Maldonado told the Washington Blade.
“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. And a lot of those key vulnerable populations are not being prioritized in this administration.”
VP Mike Pence, who has been running the administration behind the scenes as Trump continues his Twitter wars with the media, science, and fellow politicians, openly anti-LGBT and has shown resistance to fighting HIV. He will likely be influential in picking replacements for the now-fired councilors.
As Indiana’s governor, Pence refused to take action as an HIV epidemic swept through the southern portion of the state due to intravenous drug use. State and national authorities begged Pence to institute a needle exchange program and eventually Pence reluctantly agreed to “test” the program after national outcry.
Experts and now-former members of the council expect new representatives appointed by Trump/Pence to focus on failed abstinence-only programs while ignoring the communities most affected by the virus – people of color and LGBT people.
(Photo, YouTube; via LGBTQ Nation)