WASHINGTON — President Reagan's chief domestic policy adviser said Thursday he has suggested that the White House appoint an AIDS patient or the relative of an AIDS patient to fill one of the two vacancies on the presidential AIDS commission.
"Somebody with the disease could bring a perspective that is more than theoretical," Gary L. Bauer said in an interview, adding that such an appointment "might take the edge off some of the vitriolic arguments" that have erupted over the makeup of the panel.
The commission, which has been fraught with controversy since its inception, was left in further disarray last week when both its chairman and vice chairman abruptly resigned amid reports of internal bickering and serious ideological differences.
Further, on Wednesday, a coalition of civil rights and public health groups filed suit against the commission, claiming its membership is not balanced and that it fails to represent groups most affected by its work.
Bauer said he also has urged that the second position be filled by "someone with a strong health background."
He added: "All this harping about the makeup is wasted energy. One of the ways we could lower the voices is to have somebody with a health background on the panel, as well as somebody with personal experience."
Bauer, who was criticized earlier for insisting that a homosexual not be named to the commission strictly because of his sexual orientation, said it would be "quite different" to add someone with AIDS.
"To appoint somebody on the basis of sexual preference is still deeply offensive to me," Bauer said. "But to appoint somebody with experience with the disease is quite different. That person does have something to say about the disease."
A gay man, Frank Lilly, chairman of genetics at the Albert Einstein University Medical Center in New York, eventually was named to the panel.
Lilly, however, also is reportedly considering resigning, although knowledgeable sources said he is waiting to see who the White House selects for the two openings before making a decision.
Bauer reasserted that he thinks it is "good" for members who do not have a health background to be included on the panel, which is charged with developing a national strategy to combat the AIDS crisis. But, he added, "it's important to have people who know the medical lingo and can familiarize themselves quickly with AIDS."
Two Leaders Resigned
On Oct. 7, Dr. W. Eugene Mayberry and Dr. Woodrow A. Myers Jr., the chairman and vice chairman of the commission respectively, announced their resignations. Mayberry publicly refused to discuss his reasons for quitting but he was known to be unhappy with infighting among panel members and differences in goals and ideology over crucial AIDS issues.
Myers, Mayberry's handpicked vice chairman, was more candid, citing serious divisions and personality conflicts among panel members.
The White House immediately named a commission member, Adm. James D. Watkins, retired chief of naval operations, as its new chairman.