AIDS doctor-activist accused of molestation

BY Advocate.com Editors

September 20 2002 12:00 AM ET

A prominent California HIV specialist and activist has been accused by state regulators of sexually molesting two patients at a Beverly Hills medical office, according to the Los Angeles Times. R. Scott Hitt, MD, former chairman of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS.

Hitt acknowledged having touched one patient's genitalia in August 2000 and "crossing a boundary" with one other patient in July of that year, according to a formal accusation filed by the Medical Board of California, which regulates physicians. Both alleged molestations occurred at the Pacific Oaks Medical Group in Beverly Hills, one of the nation's largest private medical practices specializing in HIV care.

The medical board is asking that Hitt's medical license be revoked or suspended or that other actions be taken as deemed appropriate by the board. In its accusation, the board alleges that Hitt, 43, made his admissions after a complaint was filed regarding the August 2000 incident. It is not clear who lodged the complaint.

Hitt said that the patient involved in the July incident "started to come on" to him, according to the accusation. The patients, both male, are not named in the accusation. In an interview Wednesday, Hitt acknowledged doing "things I regret" while under physical and psychological stress brought on by a battle with cancer. "In July of 1999, my life fell apart," Hitt told the Times. "I was diagnosed with metastatic colon cancer. My odds of recovery were very slim." While undergoing three surgeries in 45 days as well as chemotherapy, he said, "my judgment was impaired." The cancer is now in remission, he added.

After the two incidents took place, Hitt said, he left his practice and checked into a rehabilitation and recovery program, on which he declined to elaborate. "I am proud of the progress of that recovery since then," he said. "I have not seen any patients since the accusation was made."

Hitt practiced internal medicine and was a partner at Pacific Oaks until his resignation in 2000. Since then, he has been serving as president of the American Academy of HIV Medicine, an independent organization of HIV specialists.

Active in politics at the local and national levels, Hitt was an ardent supporter of Bill Clinton in the 1992 presidential campaign. Three years later Clinton named Hitt to head the AIDS panel, a 30-member body intended to advise the president on how to fight the epidemic. Within Hitt's first six weeks at the helm, the council issued eight recommendations that Clinton immediately put into effect.

Martin Delaney, founder of San Francisco's Project Inform, a nationally known AIDS treatment information and advocacy agency, said he was saddened to hear of Hitt's current difficulties. "It would be a terrible shame if this is what he is remembered for," said Delaney. "Whatever misdeeds he committed have to be weighed against the good that he has done and continues to do. He's an important member of our community."

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