Conservative withdraws from White House AIDS panel

BY Advocate.com Editors

January 24 2003 12:00 AM ET

A Christian activist chosen by the White House to serve on the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV and AIDS is withdrawing his name under pressure for characterizing AIDS as the "gay plague," among other antigay statements attributed to him.

The Bush administration had chosen Jerry Thacker to serve on the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV and AIDS. He was to be sworn in along with other new council members next week by Health and Human Services secretary Tommy Thompson. On Thursday, however, Thacker sent a letter signaling that he would not accept the appointment, Administration officials said.

The Administration's choice of the Pennsylvania marketing consultant had come under severe criticism from gay rights groups and others. Thacker contracted the AIDS virus from his wife, who was infected during a blood transfusion.

Thacker is a graduate of Bob Jones University and later ran a radio station at the school, and his Web site at one point referred to AIDS as the "gay plague." He also referred to gay people as practicing a "death style," rather than a lifestyle. He has described homosexuality as a condition that can be cured by Christianity. Like the Bush administration, he promotes abstinence from sex as the way to prevent HIV infection. "For the unmarried, the only truly 'safe sex' is not to have sex," Thacker has written.

David Smith of the Human Rights Campaign, a Washington, D.C-based gay rights advocacy group, applauded the news that Thacker would not join the panel but said Bush administration AIDS policies still leave a lot to be desired.

"While this is a positive development, the underlying problem continues to remain with this administration's approach to HIV and AIDS," Smith said. "Their obsessive focus on abstinence as the solitary mechanism to prevent the transmission of HIV is not based in sound science. They continue to come from an ideological perspective as opposed to a scientific perspective."

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