February 5, 2011 at 8:15 am EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Gray names gay physician head of D.C. AIDS office

D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray on Friday announced the appointment of veteran public health and AIDS physician Gregory Pappas as director of the city’s HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis, Sexually Transmitted Disease and Tuberculosis Administration (HAHSTA).

Pappas, who is gay, has held a wide range of AIDS and public health-related positions over the past 25 years, including a post as adviser to U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher during the Clinton administration. He served as contributing author to the strategic plan for U.S. international emergency relief for AIDS in developing countries during the Bush administration.

In his most recent position as a global health consultant, he has served, among other things, as medical adviser to the Silver Spring, Md.-based National Association of People with AIDS (NAPWA).

“I think this is the best appointment in the agency’s history,” said Frank Oldham, NAPWA’s executive director, who served as head of the D.C. AIDS office from 1993-1994, when it was called the Agency for HIV/AIDS.

“With his medical expertise and certainly his HIV/AIDS expertise, he understands the various populations – people of color, gay men of all colors, and the huge issue of AIDS among African-American women,” Oldham said. “This is a phenomenal appointment, and I really think we’re going to see a huge difference in saving lives from AIDS and a decrease in HIV infections in the District.”

Pappas, a longtime D.C. resident, served as an assistant to Dr. Mohammed Akter, Gray’s appointee as director of the Department of Health, when Akter served as the D.C. Commissioner of Public Health from 1991-1994.

Akter held that position during the administration of then-Mayor Sharon Pratt Kelly and reported directly to Gray, who then headed the D.C. Department of Human Services. At the time, the human services department had jurisdiction over health issues.

HAHSTA is currently an arm of the Department of Health and its director reports to the DOH director.

Pappas will replace Dr. Nnemdi Kamanu Elias, who has served as acting director of HAHSTA since Mayor Adrian Fenty named her to the post last July. Fenty appointed Elias to the position after Dr. Shannon Hader, who held the director’s job for more than three years, abruptly resigned.

According to biographical information released by the mayor’s office, Pappas served recently as a consultant for the U.S. Agency for International Development on mental health and HIV programs. He has also worked with the National Medical Association to improve African-American physicians’ ability to serve patients who are men who have sex with men.

His international heath work includes service as chair of the Department of Community Health Sciences at Aga Khan University in Karachi, Pakistan. In his work with the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), Pappas designed monitoring and evaluation plans for anti-retroviral programs in nine African countries and countries in the Caribbean.

He received a degree in medicine and a Ph.D. in anthropology from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. Among the jobs he held upon moving to D.C. was the post of faculty member at Howard University Medical School.

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

  • I think that appointing Dr. Pappas as the Director of HAHSTA is an indication that Mayor Gray intends to take the HIV/AIDS epidemic in DC seriously and treat it as the crisis it is.

  • Greg Pappas has the practical knowledge, understanding of the District, and personal commitment and qualities to work with Dr. Akhter and Mayor Gray to lead DC in addressing HIV/AIDS, TB, STIs and other public issues.

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