Sunday, December 31, 2017

HIV/Aids adviser says panel's sudden firing by Trump 'feels like retribution'

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Joanna Walters in New York
Sat 30 Dec ‘17 12.29 EST

Donald Trump has fired the remaining members of his advisory panel on HIV and Aids, abruptly and without full explanation, and drawing accusations that he is retaliating against activists and experts who oppose his healthcare agenda.

The White House said such moves are typical when one administration takes over from another.

Six members of the panel resigned in the summer, protesting against what they saw as a lack of support from the Trump administration. They accused the White House of not caring about the issue.

On Wednesday, the remaining members of the panel received letters informing them they were being terminated. Some had more than a year left on their contracts.

The White House said it was a routine move, a step towards changing the guard from members appointed by Barack Obama. But some panel members were left surprised, bruised and suspicious.

“I had recently been re-sworn in through 2018, so why now?,” said Gabriel Maldonado, one of the fired advisers, who is chief executive of TruEvolution, a California group that works for the elimination of HIV and Aids and justice for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.

“The timing feels awkward.”

Maldonado said he was shocked to receive his termination letter by FedEx courier.

“It feels like retribution,” he told the Guardian. “I’ve criticized the Trump government’s HIV policy … I think we all know broadly that there is a hostility that this administration has to people in the LGBTQ community, particularly [among] those on the evangelical right wing.”

The post of national director of Aids policy has not been filled under Trump. Maldonado said that left a glaring hole in policy work at the top level.

He also said repealing or severely weakening the Affordable Care Act – a Trump promise – would have a disproportionate effect on Aids sufferers and population groups more vulnerable to contracting HIV.


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