AIDS Panel Choice Wrote of a "Gay Plague"; Views of White House Commission Nominee Draw Criticism
January 23, 2003
Next week, Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson is scheduled to swear in several new members of the Presidential Advisory Commission on HIV and AIDS. These include Jerry Thacker, a Pennsylvania marketing consultant who has characterized AIDS as the "gay plague." A Bob Jones University graduate and former employee, Thacker says he contracted HIV after his wife was infected through a blood transfusion.Adapted from:
On his Web site and elsewhere, Thacker has described homosexuality as a "deathstyle" rather than a lifestyle and asserted that "Christ can rescue the homosexual." After word of his selection spread in the gay community, some material disappeared from his Web site.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, administration health officials confirmed the appointment of Thacker, who they said was part of a diverse group that includes a board member from the Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest gay/lesbian advocacy group; an AIDS adviser to the World Bank; and a state public health officer. One official said Thacker "has a very powerful and tragic personal story and an ability to reach out to an audience we couldn't reach in the process."
"This individual is an extremist ideologue who persecutes and demeans an entire class of people impacted by this disease," said Human Rights Campaign spokesperson David Smith.
Carl Schmid, a gay Republican activist who worked on the Bush 2000 campaign, said he is disappointed and frustrated that HHS disregarded warnings that Thacker's selection would overshadow the commission's valuable work. "We need to have a scientific-based approach to the problems of HIV/AIDS and not this radical agenda he is pushing," Schmid said.
In September 2001, Thacker returned to Bob Jones University. The two speeches he gave there, as summarized on the university's Web site, focused on the "sin of homosexuality" and his family's struggle with AIDS. Thacker endorses "reparative therapy," which considers homosexuality aberrant behavior that can be modified through religious faith -- an approach that professional organizations like the American Psychological Association say has no medical or scientific basis.
Commission Co-Chair Tom Coburn said he knows little about Thacker except that he has HIV. Coburn said Thacker's views on homosexuality are irrelevant to the commission's efforts to stop the epidemic.
01.23.03; Ceci Connolly
This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.