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.
"Like any administration, they want their own people there", Maldonado, who heads an LGBT and HIV/AIDS organization called Truevolution, said. "Many of us were Obama appointees. I wasn't supposed to leave until 2018".
The Trump administration still hasn't appointed a director to the Office of National AIDS Policy. Medications have advanced since then, making HIV a much more manageable diagnosis for many Americans.
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Six members of the council had resigned in June to protest the administration's health policies.
The notice "thanked me for my past service and said that my appointment was terminated, effective immediately", said Patrick Sullivan, an epidemiologist at Emory University who works on HIV testing programs. 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 added.
Maldonado said "ideological and philosophical differences" with the administration are a potential reason for the terminations.
Schoettes went on to say that Trump was "executing a purge" by many of his actions, including those unrelated to HIV. However, according to him, "a lot of those key vulnerable populations are not being prioritized in this administration". Maldonado also said it was odd Trump waited nearly a year into his term to fire the remaining council members.
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Trump's proposed budget, for example, which significantly cut funding for HIV/AIDS prevention and education measures, could lead to millions of deaths according to a report from the ONE Campaign. The Republican-controlled Congress has thus far continued to fund these programs at previous levels.
"The timing is a little bit unorthodox compared to what the Obama administration's approach was", Maldonado said. "To lose this body's expertise and counsel at the White House on HIV issues threatens to unravel years of progress and our collective efforts to end HIV within our lifetimes".
However, HIV/AIDS activists have been deeply critical of the White House's approach over the past year. "Every organization serving people living with HIV and fighting to end this epidemic must galvanize their networks of clients, staff, and volunteers to resist and fight back against these unsafe HIV policy decisions", he added.
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