President Donald Trump has dismissed all 16 members fo the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS without giving an explanation.
Scott A. Schoettes, a Chicago-based HIV/AIDS activist and one of the members of the advisory panel who resigned over the summer, tweeted yesterday that the remaining council members had been fired for calling President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence "dangerous". "No respect for their service", Schoettes wrote on the social media site.
Gabriel Maldonado, CEO of Truevolution, a LGBT and HIV/AIDS awareness organization, told the Washington Blade: "I can only speculate" on why he and his council members were dismissed.
The terminated members, the website said, were given the option to reapply after Tuesday.
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.
"If we do not ensure that United States 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".
Cecilia Chung, an Obama-era appointee who left voluntarily after her term expired earlier this year, echoed these concerns.
The firings were not unusual. Other Presidents, including Barack Obama, have cleared out most of their predecessor's appointees to make room for their own.
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But Maldonado said the termination of PACHA members during the Trump administration is only partially consistent with the Obama years.
Trump's relationship with the council has been beset by controversy, with six staffers quitting in June amidst discontent as to how the president has been handling the epidemic of HIV/AIDS. "I think where the discrepancy comes in is why a year later, No. 1?"
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 Trump administration still hasn't appointed a director to the Office of National AIDS Policy. 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. "All PACHA members are eligible to apply to serve on the new council that will be convened in 2018".
Sullivan, who's a professor at Emory University specializing in HIV research, did not explicitly criticize the administration's decision to fire him and his fellow panel members, adding that there are plenty of scientists who can fill his position as long as USA policy sticks to "well-established" and science-based research. "The tactics that we had are kind of obsolete, and now we need to craft new strategy to address the troubling and unsettling revelations, particularly around the silence and inaction that have taken place around HIV and AIDS".
The White House did not respond to requests for comment. The Washington Blade reported in October gay Republicans familiar with HIV/AIDS issues and LGBT people have been among those contacted by a Trump administration official for possible appointments to PACHA.
It is not yet clear when the new appointments will be made.