Trump administration terminates Obama-era HIV/AIDS council members

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President Trump has terminated the appointments of the remaining Obama-appointed members of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS, CBS News has confirmed. A handful of council members already resigned earlier this year, announcing their departure in a letter published in Newsweek that claimed “Trump doesn’t care about HIV.”

Kaye Hayes, executive director for the council, said the members received a letter noting their appointment termination on Wednesday. The administration is inviting new applicants to apply. Hayes noted that the Obama administration also dismissed members of former President George W. Bush’s council.   

“On December 27, 2017, the current members of Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS (PACHA) received a letter informing them that the Administration was terminating their appointments,” Hayes said in a statement. “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 Obama administration dismissed the George W. Bush administration appointees to PACHA in order to bring in new voices. All PACHA members are eligible to apply to serve on the new council that will be convened in 2018. Information on how to apply to serve on PACHA is available here.”

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. But the timing could have been handled at the end of January or at the council’s first quarterly meeting, he said. 

“If my contribution (on the council) was seen as valuable, my dismissal would have been unnecessary,” he said, suggesting the Trump administration isn’t making this issue a priority as much as it could be. 

More broadly, when asked whether he thinks the Trump administration cares about the LGBT community and those living with HIV/AIDS, he said, “Bigotry and homophobia have been around since the beginning of the country, sometimes it takes a voice for a particularly type of sentiment to be resurrected.”

The former council member called the president’s actions — or lack thereof — on civil rights a “permission to re-vocalize” long-simmering hate and bigotry on issues like race and gender. 

“This White House is giving me anxiety about my future,” Maldonado said. “…I can only hope that my people — marginalized people — remember that we have been here before.”

CBS News’ Arden Farhi and Kathryn Watson contributed to this report 

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