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Drug, Health Experts Put on AIDS Panel

November 11, 1987|MARLENE CIMONS | Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — The White House, attempting to bring its beleaguered AIDS commission back to full strength, named two new members Tuesday to fill the vacancies created by the resignations last month of its chairman and vice chairman.

Dr. Beny J. Prim, a New York specialist in drug addiction, was selected to replace Dr. W. Eugene Mayberry, the former chairman. Kristine Gebbie, administrator of the Oregon State Health Division and chairman of the AIDS task force of the Assn. of State and Territorial Health Officials, will succeed Dr. Woodrow A. Myers, the former vice chairman.

The commission, which is charged with advising President Reagan on a national strategy for the AIDS epidemic, is expected to issue a preliminary report on Dec. 7. A final report is expected in June.

Gay Spokesmen Pleased

Gay rights spokesmen and others said Tuesday that they were pleasantly surprised by the appointment of Gebbie, whose views on AIDS public health policy appear to conflict with those of some other panel members. Gebbie is a strong proponent of education and prevention to curtail the epidemic, and she advocates voluntary--rather than mandatory--testing for AIDS infection.

In addition, she supports ironclad protections against breaches of test-result confidentiality and stronger statutes to prevent discrimination against AIDS patients and those infected with the virus.

The commission, which has been beset with controversy since its inception, lost its two top members on Oct. 7, when Mayberry and Myers abruptly quit, unhappy about personality conflicts and ideological differences among commission members on how to approach critical AIDS issues. Later that day, the White House announced that Adm. James D. Watkins, retired chief of naval operations and a commission member, would take over as chairman.

Lawsuit Over Panel

Earlier, after its membership was announced, the commission was attacked for not including more individuals with wider AIDS expertise and for including some individuals whose beliefs clash with widely accepted medical evidence about the disease. The panel has also been the subject of a lawsuit challenging its composition.

Gebbie said that a conversation with Watkins persuaded her "to give (the commission) a try."

"I told him that I would bring a strong set of viewpoints from the state health perspective and that I didn't want to get involved if I couldn't tackle those issues head on," Gebbie said in a telephone interview. "He told me: 'That's what we want.' "

Jeff Levi, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, said he believes that Gebbie would "add a voice of reason to what is otherwise an unreasonable group of people," adding: "I just hope she won't get lost in the noise."

Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Los Angeles), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on health, agreed.

'Diligent Adviser'

"Gebbie has been a thoughtful and diligent adviser on AIDS policy," he said. "I hope she can bring some of the reality of dealing with AIDS and health care to this ideologically stacked panel. I'm happy that the President has finally chosen someone with some expertise in this area."

Prim, 59, of New Rochelle, N. Y., has been president of the Urban Resource Institute, an organization that deals with problems of the inner city, since 1983. He has been president and executive director of its sister organization, the Addiction Research and Treatment Corp. of Brooklyn, N. Y., since 1969.

Gebbie, 44, of Portland, Ore., is also assistant director for health at Oregon's Department of Human Resources and an adjunct associate professor with the school of nursing at Oregon Health Science University.

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