Sworn in as Secretary of State just yesterday, Hillary Clinton wasted no time cleaning house at the vast department she runs. Today, we have heard, Mark Dybul was asked to submit his resignation as US Global AIDS Coordinator, head of the office in charge of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief.
This is a huge first step to ensuring the health and rights of all people at risk of HIV and AIDS: Dybul oversaw the last several years of abstinence-only programs funded by PEPFAR, hob-knobbed a bit too closely with the far right, and never saw a law or policy restriction he could not make even more restrictive. Curious for a self-identified Democrat? Not so curious, I guess, if your career is dependent on pleasing the far right, and if your desire to be Global AIDS Coordinator outweighs your desire to stand up for what is right. Under the Bush Administration, brave professionals such as Susan Wood, then-Assistant FDA Commissioner and Director of the Office of Women’s Health, resigned rather than carry out policies that compromised science, evidence, ethics and human lives. Dybul instead did everything he could to work with the far right to tighten policies, deny women access to reproductive and sexual health care, and put in place guidance that further restricted women’s choices. I have no doubt that as a result people in countries like Uganda were needlessly infected with HIV under his regime and because of the policies he supported through his unwillingness to stand up and speak out.
But we no longer have to abide such policies. Hillary Clinton has taken swift action to show she will stand up for the health and rights of people everywhere, for evidence-based policies to promote women’s health. She and our new President deserve our deep appreciation.
Thank you, Hillary!