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Editorial: Two-tiered concern / An AIDS adviser was right to bow out

Sunday, January 26, 2003

Jerry Thacker, who is HIV-infected, was nominated by President Bush to serve on the Presidential Advisory Commission on HIV and AIDS. On its face, he appeared to be a sympathetic choice until people learned that Mr. Thacker has called AIDS the "gay plague" and homosexuality a "deathstyle."

This open hostility to a large class of people with HIV made him unqualified to serve (imagine a cancer society board member having contempt for cancer patients because of their smoking). Fortunately, Mr. Thacker had the good sense Thursday to decline the nomination.

Yet Mr. Thacker, a marketing consultant who lives near Reading, could have been just the kind of messenger to build AIDS awareness among heterosexuals. He says he learned in 1986 that he contracted the virus after his wife was infected by a blood transfusion during pregnancy. As a result, the two Thacker parents and their daughter, Sarah, all have HIV.

Despite their situation, Mr. Thacker still rails on the Web site of The Scepter Institute against homosexuality. He founded the institute as a nonprofit organization that sells religious-based AIDS material advocating sexual abstinence.

"AIDS was something that bad people had to worry about. Not Christians," the site says. "HIV was something shameful -- God's judgment on immoral behavior."

An alumnus and a former faculty member of Bob Jones University, the South Carolina school that until recently banned interracial dating, Mr. Thacker's presence would have polarized the advisory commission. Given his statements on the subject, he would have expressed a two-tiered concern for HIV carriers: more for the heterosexuals and less for the gays.

Jerry Thacker can espouse that in his church or on his Web site, but that's not what the public deserved from a presidential commission. President Bush, the "compassionate conservative," named a conservative with suspect compassion to this panel. It's better for everyone that he decided to quit.

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