Published: Sat, December 30, 2017
Medicine | By Melba Vasquez

Trump Fires HIV/AIDS Advisory Council With No Explanation

Trump Fires HIV/AIDS Advisory Council With No Explanation

In what activists see as another sign of his indifference to the AIDS epidemic, Donald Trump has fired the remaining 16 members of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS "without explanation via a letter from FedEx", the Washington Blade reports. One of those members ― Gabriel Maldonado, CEO of the Riverside, Calif. -based LGBT and HIV/AIDS group Truevolution ― told the Washington Blade, however, that "it is common for appointees to be terminated and for folks to kind of want their own people in". The Bush administration continued the council's charter and during the Obama administration the council created and monitored the National HIV/AIDS Strategy.

Cecilia Chung, an Obama-era appointee who left voluntarily after her term expired earlier this year, echoed these concerns. Medications have advanced since then, making HIV a much more manageable diagnosis for many Americans.

Several who sat on the committee resigned in June of this year, citing inaction and apathy on the part of the administration regarding issues related to HIV/AIDS. "No respect for their service", Schoettes tweeted. Fangerous that #Trump and Co. "(Pence esp.) are eliminating few remaining people willing to push back against harmful policies, like abstinence-only sex ed", he wrote on Twitter. 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 US each year, telling advisers the immigrants from that nation "all have AIDS".

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"It is important to have a rolling, transitioning body that crosses administrations that really has a set of diverse outlooks on the epidemic", Sullivan said.

The firings came months after a half-dozen other members resigned in protest of the Trump administration's position on health policies, including its desire to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

"If we do not ensure that U.S. leadership at the executive and legislative levels are informed by experience and expertise", they wrote, "real people will be hurt and some will even die".

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Patrick Sullivan, a professor and epidemiologist at Emory University, and Oliver Clyde Allen III, an author and pastor at The Vision Church of Atlanta, were both appointed to the council by President Obama. 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.

The White House did not immediately respond for comment.

Nominations for membership to the Presidential Advisory Council must be received by January 2, according to the Federal Register, but it is unclear when new appointments will be made.

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Advocates were also angered that Trump's public statements on National HIV Testing Day and World AIDS Day didn't mention LGBT people, a change from the Obama administration.

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