Trump terminates HIV/AIDS advisory panel members as he seeks replacements

Trump terminates HIV/AIDS advisory panel members as he seeks replacements
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The Trump administration has terminated the remaining 10 members of the president's advisory council on HIV/AIDS as it prepares to appoint new members. 

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.

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She added that the members were thanked for their “leadership, dedication and commitment.”

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. 

The council's website at hiv.gov has already deleted the profiles of the members who were terminated and a call for nominations to the council was posted in the Federal Register earlier this month with a deadline of Jan. 2. 

PACHA was formed by former President Clinton, with the primary duty of providing advice, information and recommendations to the administration on ways to promote treatment, prevention and cure of HIV/AIDS.

The terminations come after six members of the council resigned this summer, saying that Trump doesn't care about HIV. 

One of the people fired, Gabriel Maldonado, CEO of Truevolution in Riverside, Calif., had time remaining on the council and told The Hill there was no indication the members' dismissal was imminent. 

He questioned why Trump didn’t change the board at the beginning of his presidency, instead waiting nearly a year. 

"First of all, we're a year into this administration. Previous appointees were phased out in January, along with all other political appointees," he said. 

He also noted that some people on the board with expiring terms were sworn back in earlier this year.

Maldonado speculated that the ideological differences between the Obama appointees and the Trump administration were just too extreme. Many of the appointees helped with the drafting of ObamaCare, which the Trump administration has actively tried to repeal.

"The fact is we are in many ways worlds apart in our approaches," he said, providing the administration's emphasis on abstinence education as an example. 

Advocates have been critical of the administration's approach to HIV/AIDS issues. 

Nearly a year into Trump's presidency, the White House has yet to appoint a director of the Office of National AIDS Policy. 

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. 

"I think my greatest concern is I haven't seen any [work on HIV/AIDS,]" Maldonado said. 

"I think sometimes you look at when policies are problematic, but there's problems in not having policies." 

Maldonado said he worries about the what message the administration's actions will send, particularly to LGBT people of color. 

"I just want them to know that they're not alone. There's a whole league of advocates and activists working tirelessly on their behalf, and they have not been forgotten. We still stand here together, and will get through this," he said.