At least seven LGBT people are among the 24 newly appointed members of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS.
The induction of the new PACHA members, who Health & Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius gave the oath of office Feb. 2, comes six months after Sebelius dismissed all of the presidential advisory body’s existing members, who were appointed under the Bush administration. Among them were at least three gay members.
The induction of the new members also followed the appointment of veteran AIDS researcher and former U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention official Dr. Helene Gayle as chair of PACHA. Sebelius made the appointment in August.
“When we came into office, the president had new goals for a national HIV strategy,” said Jeff Crowley, director of the White House Office of National AIDS Policy and one of President Obama’s gay appointees. “So we chose over the summer to renew the [PACHA] charter and made the decision to reconstitute it … so it was aligned with our goals going forward.”
Crowley told DC Agenda that the White House and HHS, which oversees PACHA, announced last fall that they were seeking recommendations for prospective new members of the presidential advisory body from a wide range of AIDS constituencies, including community groups, medical professionals, researchers, service providers, and people living with HIV/AIDS.
He said the White House and HHS vetted prospective appointees through the fall and early winter before selecting the new appointees and calling them to Washington on Feb. 2 for their induction and orientation meetings.
“Today, I’m pleased to have a new group of experts joining PACHA,” Obama said in a statement released by the White House. “And I look forward to hearing from the council about our continued efforts to prevent the spread of HIV infections in the United States and to provide care and treatment to people living with HIV/AIDS around the world.”
Sebelius told the new PACHA members and representatives of state and national AIDS advocacy organizations attending the ceremony that PACHA would serve as a “platform for the administration to share our plans and insights” on future AIDS programs and proposals.
“One of the best parts about this group is that you come from a wide range of backgrounds, with experts in domestic and international AIDS, experts from rural areas and large urban centers, experts representing straight and gay communities,” she said.
“And I’m counting on you to keep me up to date on all of these groups’ concerns, priorities, and insights,” she said.
Gale, the new PACHA chairperson, echoed that view.
“Our role is to be the outside voice that advises the insiders,” she said.
President Bill Clinton created PACHA to serve as the nation’s first presidential advisory panel on AIDS-related issues. Since then, the panel has met three or four times a year, with its stated objective of providing the president with independent, non-partisan recommendations on how to curtail AIDS in the U.S. and globally.
Clinton started a precedent of appointing prominent LGBT people from various fields and professions to the panel. President George W. Bush continued that practice, naming a number of gay Republicans and AIDS activists from the LGBT community.
Some AIDS activists raised objections when Bush also appointed prominent conservative activists to the advisory panel, including advocates of “abstinence only until marriage” policies for the nation’s HIV prevention programs.
The new PACHA appointees in the Obama administration — which were made by Sebelius with White House consultation — include at least seven gay men who have been involved in HIV/AIDS related work.
• A. Cornelius Baker, former executive director of the Whitman-Walker Clinic and the National Association of People With AIDS and current policy advisor for the National Black Gay Men’s Advocacy Coalition.
• Praveenh Basaviah, an LGBT youth advocate who worked as a program director at the National Centers on Sexuality in San Francisco and served as a Clinton School of Government fellow in India, where he worked on AIDS-related projects.
• Douglas Brooks, a licensed clinical social worker who serves as vice president of health services for the Justice Resource Institute in Boston.
• Humberto Cruz, director of the AIDS Institute of the New York State Department of Health, where he oversees HIV prevention programs, clinical health care and public health and HIV-related education for health care providers.
• Michael Horberg, physician and HIV and infectious disease specialist who serves as HIV/AIDS Director for Kaiser Permanente in Oakland, Calif., and former chair of the National Lesbian & Gay Medical Association.
• Jack Jackson, HIV/AIDS advocate for American Indians and Alaska Natives living in tribal and urban communities and former member of the board of the National Native American AIDS Prevention Center in Arizona.
• Phil Wilson, founder and executive director of the Black AIDS Institute and former AIDS coordinator for the City of Los Angeles.
These additional PACHA members members have a public record of involvement in LGBT related health issues:
• Robert Greenwald, managing attorney for the Wilmer Hale Legal Services Center in Massachusetts and director of Harvard University Law School’s Health Law & Policy Clinic and the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual & Transgender Law Clinic.
• Ejay Jack, graduate assistant at the multicultural affairs office of the University of Nebraska in Omaha, and former director of the university’s Gender & Sexual Orientation Student Agency and member of the university’s Sexual & Gender Equality Task Force. He helped organize a campus National Coming Out Day celebration in 2008 that included students, faculty, and family members.
The three gay menbers of PACHA who were previously dismissed by Sebelius, along with the other members, were Carl Schmid, deputy executive diector fo the AIDS Institute, a national AIDS advocacy group; Robert Kabel, an attorney, former board chair of Log Cabin Republicans and the current chair fo the D.C. Republican Party; and Antonio Urbina, a New York phycian assocaited with HIV/AIDS programs at St. Vincent’s Medical Center in Manhattan.