AIDS Panel Director Leaves Amid Controversy Over Activist
February 5, 2003
Patricia Ware, the executive director of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV and AIDS, left her post days after activist Jerry Thacker, selected for the panel on her recommendation, withdrew amid revelations he had described AIDS as the "gay plague" and homosexuality as a "death style." Bush administration officials said Ware was being promoted to a more influential role in the Department of Health and Human Services. But several sources close to both the White House and PACHA involved in the deliberations over Ware's departure asserted that she was moved to avoid further embarrassment over Thacker's selection.Adapted from:
Claude Allen, deputy secretary at HHS and a longtime friend of Ware, announced her departure on Friday at the conclusion of PACHA's two-day meeting. A veteran of the first Bush administration with ties to the religious right, Ware was a leading proponent of abstinence-only sex education and was former director of the conservative Americans for a Sound AIDS/HIV Policy.
"She is being promoted to work within the office of the assistant secretary of health. She will be broadening and expanding her portfolio," Allen said yesterday. "She will now be working across the board in many areas of health. We need our best people working on health issues." Allen said White House staffer Josephine Robinson will temporarily take over the council job.
For several months, AIDS activists and some council members grumbled that Ware overreached in the job, frequently imposing her personal ideological views in setting the council's agenda. Much of the controversy revolved around comments Ware made regarding the role of gay white men in spreading HIV and in controlling many of the most influential AIDS organizations. "It appeared at times that she wanted to blame the gay community for AIDS," said Stuart Burden, a Levi Strauss Foundation executive who completed his term on PACHA last year.
Other activists, who requested anonymity, said that Ware seemed to be attempting to broaden the AIDS coalition by adding minorities and religious activists. "The theory of getting someone who can speak to the evangelical community is a good idea," said one council member. "In this instance, she just picked the wrong person."
02.05.03; Ceci Connolly