President Bush in December appointed seven new members to the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV and AIDS, including a fundamentalist Christian who runs a ministry to "rescue" gays, the Washington Blade reports. Jerry Thacker, a Pennsylvania marketing consultant who has AIDS, has called homosexuality a "death style" and lectures that Christ can rescue gays. Thacker was infected with HIV from his wife, who was infected through a blood transfusion. Their daughter also has AIDS. The new members of the council are expected to be announced before PACHA's next meeting, scheduled for January 30 and 31 in Washington.
Thacker and his wife operate a Web site for his ministry, called the Scepter Institute, which he says advocates treating all people with HIV/AIDS with caring and love. But the institute also teaches that gays are sinners. "We bring people face-to-face with their mortality," he told the Blade. "We call on everyone to change and to be rescued by Christ, because everyone has sinned." The Web site also lists Thacker as a public speaker who talks on a number of topics, including a talk called "Help for Homosexuals," which, according to the Web site, "includes statistics on homosexual behavior, tips for ministry to those practicing this 'death style,' and information on the homosexual movement and its political agenda."
Gay rights and AIDS activists say they fear Thacker's appointment is part of Bush's efforts to include a stronger fundamentalist religious presence on the council. "We find him frightening," David Smith, spokesperson for the Human Rights Campaign, a national gay rights group, told the Blade. "It's one more piece of evidence that this administration is focusing on ideology and not science when it comes to AIDS."
Among the other appointees to the panel are gay Republican activist David Greer; Rosa Biaggi, director of the AIDS division at the Connecticut Department of Public Health; and Dan Sneed, a gay man from Dallas who serves as executive director of an agency that provides services to the city's gay African-American community.