13 reappointed to Schaefer's new AIDS panel


Three months after disbanding his AIDS Advisory Council and promising to appoint a new one that's more attuned to his way of thinking, Gov. William Donald Schaefer has created a new council composed mostly of old names.

He searched the field for talent, but apparently found that he couldn't do without the expertise of more than half of the people who sat on the old council, a group he once said had disappointed him by not doing enough to address public fears about the disease.

All told, 13 people whom Governor Schaefer named to his new 22-member council last week are veterans of the old panel. And many are people who have publicly opposed one of the governor's top priorities: legislation that would require the mandatory testing of certain health-care workers and patients for the virus that causes AIDS.

"He's reinvigorating it, shaking it up a little," Page Boinest, a Schaefer spokeswoman, said of the council. "But if you're going to talk about AIDS, let's bring in some of the people who know about it."

Tomorrow, Mr. Schaefer will kick off the first meeting of his new council with a discussion of his testing proposal. Despite past disagreements, some of the veteran members were taking a conciliatory view toward what lies ahead.

"I'm encouraged," said Dr. John Johnson, who heads the pediatric AIDS clinic at the University of Maryland Medical Center. "I'm glad to see that he's taking a good breadth of people from the old council, including some very liberal people with views different from his own."

Dr. Johnson said he still opposes mandatory testing of health-care workers because the risk to patients is extremely remote and because testing deflects attention from more important issues, such as treating low-income patients who lack access to care. But he said the council needs to address the issue, "because of the general public's concerns about HIV transmission. The question is how do we solve the problem."

Sen. Paula C. Hollinger, D-Baltimore County, was first left off the list but was then reappointed after telling The Evening Sun that it was "absurd" that she was excluded. Yesterday, she said that the governor had "gathered some impressive experts" and that members should listen to the full details of his testing proposal before making up their minds about it.

In August, Mr. Schaefer said he favored legislation that would require HIV testing of health-care workers and patients who are involved in "invasive" procedures -- those that involve the possible spillage of blood.

"What's invasive?" Senator Hollinger said. "If we're talking about the drawing of blood, that's a lot of people [to be tested]. If it's deep cavity surgery, then it's a lot less people. Then on the other hand, where does the dentist fit in? There are a lot of questions to be answered."

Curt Decker, a gay activist, said he was "perplexed" to find that he was reappointed, given his public criticism of Mr. Schaefer's testing proposal. "I decided to accept [the appointment] because I felt my point of view needed to be represented."

Dr. John Bartlett, chief of infectious diseases at the Johns Hopkins Hospital, was reappointed despite the fact that he issued a strongly worded statement in June opposing the governor's position. Dr. Fred Gill, an infectious disease specialist from Montgomery County, was also reappointed despite heading a committee of the state medical society that opposed the governor on testing for the human immunodeficiency virus.

And Dr. Richard Johnson, chairman of the new council, said the governor never sounded him out on his views about mandatory testing before appointing him to head the new council last June.

"The governor did not ask me where I stood on issues -- he asked me if I was willing to do this," said Dr. Johnson, a Hopkins neurologist who is a newcomer to the council.

"He did not ask me where I stood on testing, although if he wanted to know, it's a matter of record." Dr. Johnson, a Hopkins neurologist, had already told a presidential panel on AIDS that he opposes such testing.

Copyright © 2019, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad