WASHINGTON, December 30, 2017: President Trump has terminated remaining members of the council that advised the White House on the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Trump sent letters out earlier this week to the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS – also known as PACHA – informing that their terminations were effective immediately.
According to The Hill,
“All 10 members received letters Wednesday informing them that their appointments to the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS (PACHA) were terminated, effective immediately, said Kaye Hayes, the council’s executive director.”
PACHA was initially set up in 1995 and was tasked with making national HIV/AIDS strategy recommendations to the President. They also created a five year plan that sets out how health officials should respond to the ongoing HIV/AIDS epidemic. Over the years, the council was made up of doctors, industry leaders, community members and people living with the disease.
Last summer, several PACHA members resigned from the council to protest President Trump’s health policies. Scott Shoettes, one of those members who quit, later spoke to Newsweek. He criticized the Trump administration claiming they have no strategy to address the on-going HIV/AIDS epidemic, seek zero input from experts to formulate HIV policy, and push legislation that will harm people living with HIV, potentially halting or reversing important gains made in the fight against this AIDS.
Schoette acknowledged that Trump wasn’t the only factor in his decision to quit. He claims he saw the “writing on the wall,” noting that the Office of National AIDS Policy has not had a director since President Trump took office.
It’s unclear when new appointments will be made to the council, which still exists on paper. Their last meeting was in August. Now, according to the council’s website, there only remains two staffers and no council members. However, President Trump issued an executive order which continued the council and 31 other advisory councils through 2019, and a current solicitation for new nominees to the council was posted on the Federal Register on December 1, 2017.
With Trump’s decision to terminate remaining council members, activists claim he is not committed to putting an end to this disease. Scott Dworkin, a co-founder of the left-wing Democratic Coalition Against Trump predictably chastised Trump for the way members of the HIV/AIDS council were let go this week. Dworkin took to Twitter to criticize Trump’s firings saying: “Trump fired every single member of his HIV / AIDS council without telling them why.”
But according to The Hill, Kaye Hayes
“cast the decision as a normal one made by an administration seeking to appoint its own people to a presidential advisory committee.
“‘Changing the makeup of federal advisory committee members is a common occurrence during administration changes. The Obama Administration dismissed the George W. Bush Administration appointees to PACHA in order to bring in new voices,’ she said.”