In his ongoing efforts to staff executive boards with loyalists, President Donald Trump fired the 16 remaining members of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS. The White House reportedly informed the staff on Wednesday through a letter delivered by FedEx.
“Like any administration, they want their own people there,” Gabriel Maldonado, one of the former members, told Washington Blade. “Many of us were Obama appointees. I was an Obama appointee and my term was continuing until 2018.”
Maldonado added that “ideological and philosophical differences” with the Trump administration may have led to his firing, and that he routinely encountered resistance towards his work aiding “people of color, gay men, [and] transgender women.”
Scott A. Schoettes, a Chicago-based HIV/AIDS activist who resigned from the council this past summer, called the firings “a purge” and “#fascist” over Twitter. Following his June resignation alongside five other members, Schoettes wrote an op-ed for Newsweek castigating the president’s “lack of understanding and concern” over the AIDS epidemic.
Founded during the Clinton administration, the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS has promoted treatment and prevention of HIV—with the ultimate goal of finding a cure. Though incoming administrations have replaced holdovers with members more in line with their political party (such as when former President Barack Obama cleaned house from the Bush administration), the Trump White House has sought massive cuts to HIV/AIDS programs. In addition to $150 million cuts at the Centers of Disease Control, the current administration has pledged more than $1 billion in cuts from global programs benefitting disease treatment.