Bush appoints Tom Coburn co-chair of AIDS council

by Lawrence Morahan, posted Friday, January 25, 2002 (17 years ago)

WASHINGTON (BP)--Family groups welcomed reports Jan. 24 that President Bush has appointed former Republican Rep. Tom Coburn from Oklahoma to co-chair the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS, CNSNews.com reported Jan. 25.

"It's one of the few cases in which the perfect person for the job is found," said Robert Knight, director of the Culture and Family Institute.

Coburn is "a combination of honesty and compassion" and won't allow activists to hijack AIDS care for political purposes, Knight said.

"But Dr. Coburn is deeply committed to reduce suffering and to take the proper medical steps to end the epidemic. This is an excellent choice," Knight added.

Coburn will co-chair the council with Louis Sullivan, former secretary of Health and Human Services under President George H.W. Bush.

Coburn, an obstetrician and Southern Baptist layman, is a former opponent of an AIDS health policy that he said focused almost exclusively on the right of those infected to the detriment of the uninfected, "a non-traditional approach that put the public's health at risk."

As a congressman, he favored more aggressive partner notification as a fundamental means of reducing HIV infection, a system that had been used successfully to fight a syphilis epidemic, he said. Coburn also was a supporter of allocating more money to fight AIDS.

In his role as a doctor, he took a leading role in the fight against AIDS. Coburn came in conflict with many AIDS activists for favoring abstinence and more efficient reporting of names over condom distribution and needle exchange as a way of preventing new infections.

Kevin Ivers, a spokesman for the Log Cabin Republicans, a GOP homosexual rights group, said Coburn's record in Congress is one of a team player who cared about people with AIDS.

"He's always been one who has brought issues to the table and has found ways to make sure that people work together to solve them," Ivers said.

"I think people would be very mistaken to expect that Dr. Coburn would just be a political lightning rod looking to create controversy. His entire record has been someone who has put issues on the table but has always worked very hard to bring people together to find ways to solve these problems," Ivers said.

Coburn won a solidly Democratic congressional seat in 1994 and quickly established himself as a conservative. In 1999, he won the American Freedom Award from the American Association of Christian Schools, which called him "one of the toughest and most consistent conservatives" in public office.

During his time in Congress, Coburn voted for the Defense of Marriage Act and against homosexual adoptions, affirmative action and partial-birth abortion.

In 2000, he endorsed Alan Keyes for president, saying Keyes was the one candidate who had the vision and the courage to fix the country. Coburn honored a term limit pledge to his electorate and did not run for re-election in 2000.

Observers said Coburn could come into conflict with some AIDS activists if he proposes partner tracing and early diagnosis "and other time-honored steps" in ending epidemics treating AIDS patients.

"Many gay activists still treat AIDS as a political disease and will not abide sound medical procedure," Knight said. "Many lives have been lost because the gay political machine has prevented common sense measures from being taken to stop AIDS."


Morahan is a senior staff writer with www.CNSNews.com. Used by permission.

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