Thursday, 18 January, 2018

Trump administration terminates Obama-era HIV/AIDS council members

Heather Davidson | 31 December, 2017, 03:59

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.

"We can not ignore the many signs that the Trump Administration does not take the on-going epidemic, or the needs of people living with HIV, seriously", wrote Schoettes, the HIV project director for Lambda Legal, a civil rights organization focused on the LGBT community and people living with HIV.

"The Obama administration dismissed the George W Bush administration appointees to PACHA in order to bring in new voices", she said.

He tweeted on Thursday that Trump showed "no respect for their service" by firing the council members. Fangerous that #Trump and Co.

In interviews with the Washington Post, however, previous council members stated that past appointees were able to complete their entire terms, an opportunity not afforded to those let go this week. To this date, the White House has yet to appoint a director of the Office of National AIDS Policy, which was one of the reasons the six members of PACHA resigned in June. "I would personally be surprised if he even does replace these individuals with his own people", said Mark Leno.

Following that mass resignation, Trump was subjected to much criticism for his seeming inaction on the HIV front.

Gabriel Maldonado, founder and CEO of TruEvolution, an HIV/AIDS and LGBT advocacy organization based in California who was appointed to the council by the Obama administration in 2015, told CBS News that the dismissal was not unusual.

Schoettes wrote in an op-ed in Newsweek after resigning that "the Trump Administration does not take the on-going epidemic or the needs of people living with HIV seriously". "I think where the discrepancy comes in is why a year later, number one?"

'Many of us, our terms were over earlier this year and we were sworn back in, ' Maldonado revealed.

Trump has sought to make $150 million (€125 million) in cuts to HIV/AIDS programs in the 2018 fiscal year budget, as well as deep cuts to global projects to fight AIDS and other diseases, Newsweek reported. ".I can only hope that my people - marginalized people - remember that we have been here before".

But some fear the Trump administration will both diminish support for LGBTQ and HIV/AIDS activism and increase the stigmatization around being HIV-positive, which could lead to further infections and a lower quality of life for those living with the virus and disease.

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