The White House has fired the members of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS (PACHA), the council’s executive director, Kay Hayes, confirmed to HuffPost on Friday.
The council, which still had 16 members, was completely dismissed with a letter sent through FedEx on Wednesday, the Washington Blade first reported.
“Current members of Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS (PACHA) received a letter informing them that the Administration was terminating their appointments” on Dec. 27, 2017, Hayes told HuffPost in a statement sent via email.
“They were also thanked for their leadership, dedication and commitment to the effort. Changing the makeup of federal advisory committee members is a common occurrence during Administration changes,” the statement read.
Six members of the council had earlier resigned in June due to “a president who simply does not care,” according to one member in a Newsweek op-ed entitled “Trump doesn’t care about HIV. We’re outta here.”
One source with knowledge of PACHA told the Washington Blade that “many council members were terminated even though additional time remained on their terms as advisers.”
PACHA is a federal advisory committee created in 1995 with the goal of “providing information, advice, and recommendations to the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services regarding programs, policies, and research to promote effective treatment, prevention, and cure of HIV disease and AIDS.”
As of September, President Donald Trump signed an executive order renewing PACHA for an additional year so the move to fire the current council without explanation seems brash. 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.”
“I think where the discrepancy comes in is why a year later, No. 1? Two, many of us, our terms were over earlier this year and we were sworn back in, and three were stayed on nearly four months after an executive order was signed continuing the council,” he said.
Also of note, during the Obama administration, nearly all of George W. Bush’s appointees were eliminated prior to new appointees being named.
The current administration has not appointed a director of the Office of National AIDS Policy, a major reason contributing to the June resignation of the six members of PACHA. Additionally, the ONE Campaign released a report earlier this year on the potential impact of the White House’s proposed $800 million cut to HIV/AIDS efforts. The cut would slash the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief by 17 percent and gut global health programs by $2 billion, according to CBS News. The impact would be so great that AIDS experts and advocates predicted to the publication that it would “upend progress on curbing the epidemic.”
On World AIDS Day, the Department of Health and Human Services published a notice in the Federal Register inviting nominations of members to serve on PACHA. The council can have up to 25 members and nominations are due no later than 5:00 p.m. (EST) on Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2018.