Whitman-Walker Head Among Rumored Candidates for White House AIDS Office
With the reassurance from the White House last week that the Bush administration will not close the Office of National AIDS Policy but merely make some changes to it, the names of several individuals have "been floated" as possible candidates for director of the "redesigned" office, Health News Daily reports. Among them is Cornelius Baker, executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based Whitman-Walker Clinic, and former director of the National Association of People Living with AIDS. Baker served under the first Bush administration and on committees at the CDC, and, some supporters say that as a black gay Republican, he is "an ideal choice because he represents the fastest growing segment of individuals in the U.S. who are HIV-positive." Steve Gunderson, former congressman from Wisconsin and senior consultant for Greystone Companies, may be another candidate for the directorship. He is also a gay Republican and considered "a political insider" who could "wield influence on HIV/AIDS-related legislation and funding issues before Congress." Other possible candidates include Terry Stone, executive director of the Northwest AIDS Foundation, and Daniel Zingale, director of the Department of Managed Health Care in California and former executive director of the AIDS Action Council in Washington. However, even as names circulate for the ONAP, some AIDS advocates hold "doubts about the fate of the office" after last week's confusion, and worry that the ONAP will no longer have the "power, autonomy and visibility" it held during the Clinton administration, when it was headed by Sandra Thurman. Advocates speculate that the new director may not be a political appointee, and that the office may no longer have an AIDS envoy to "encourage other nations to ramp up financial commitments and prevention efforts to fight HIV/AIDS and increase treatment access and care internationally." White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer said at a Feb. 7 press briefing that the office would remain open and a $250,000 AIDS Task Force would remain in place, but added that the ONAP would now be staffed by an AIDS coordinator from the Domestic Policy Council and HHS employees (Health News Daily, 2/12).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.