The State Department’s U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator and director of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) position was unexpectedly vacated last week by its incumbent, Dr. Mark R. Dybul. Dybul initially told colleagues on January 9th that he had been asked to stay for several months; the day after Hillary Clinton was confirmed, she announced that he had resigned, though he’s reportedly told friends he was asked to leave.
Michael Gerson wrote an op-ed on Wednesday criticizing the move, calling Dybul "almost universally respected among legislators, AIDS activists, foreign leaders and health experts." But it’s not just conservative op-ed writers who are concerned; PEPFAR is one of the few things many health and development experts believe the Bush administration got right. The Times reports that nearly 70 anti-AIDS groups sent Clinton a letter this week asking for a delay in naming a successor and for a more open process in deciding on the next chief.
State Department spokesman Robert Wood was quizzed today about Dybul’s sudden departure.
QUESTION: On Mark Dybul. Mr. Wood, The Washington Post reported January 28th that the day after the inauguration of President Barack Obama, your Global Coordinator on HIV/AIDS, Ambassador Mark Dybul, quote, “received a call asking him to submit his resignation and leave by the end of the day his office,” unquote. I am wondering why and what happened.
MR. WOOD: Well, very simple.
QUESTION: Excuse me?
MR. WOOD: It’s very simple. I’m going to explain.As you know, at the end of an administration, on January 20, officials who are political appointees are required to submit their resignations and depart. And that’s all that was. It was for not just Mr. Dybul but other, you know, officials from the Bush Administration. They are required to submit their resignations and to depart. That was a part of it.
Senator John Kerry (D-Massachusetts) reportedly approached Clinton recently to recommend Harvard professor and former WHO AIDS chief Dr. Jim Yong Kim for the position, only to be told that Clinton had already offered it to Dr. Eric Goosby, who led AIDS initiatives for the Clinton administration. Goosby refused to comment, according to the Times.