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New AIDS Office Chief Is Named

July 20, 2002|From Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The White House announced Friday that Joseph O'Neill is taking over as head of President Bush's office on AIDS policy, replacing an openly gay director whose activism rankled some conservatives.

White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer issued a statement naming O'Neill, an openly gay physician who is acting head of the office of AIDS and HIV policy in the Department of Health and Human Services, as director of the Office of National AIDS Policy.

Outgoing director Scott Evertz, the first openly gay person nominated to an executive branch office by a Republican president, was shifted to HHS.

He will serve as special assistant to Secretary Tommy G. Thompson "to assist in further developing and implementing the department's overall strategy to fight HIV/AIDS around the world, including the Global Fund to Fight HIV, Tuberculosis and Malaria," according to a statement from HHS.

In that statement, Evertz said: "I am thrilled to be able to help the administration address the global pandemic in this new capacity," seeming to put to rest speculation by activists at the Human Rights Campaign that he was forced out by conservatives who did not like his association with gay groups and his support of condom use to prevent the spread of AIDS and HIV.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan also contradicted the notion that Evertz did anything wrong. "We are pleased with the job Scott Evertz has been doing in our effort to combat HIV/AIDS and look forward to working with him in his new high-level position at HHS."

Winnie Stachelberg, political director at Human Rights Campaign, said the gay rights group is "cautiously hoping that these [personnel] moves will reinvigorate the Bush administration's efforts to create a comprehensive HIV and AIDS strategy to battle the disease at home and abroad."

"This is an opportunity for the administration to reverse course, take this life-and-death issue off the back burner and reassert American leadership," Stachelberg said.

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