April 8, 1997 in Nation/World

Clinton Selects Aids Insider

San Francisco Chronicle

Promising an “open door” to the Oval Office, President Clinton appointed Atlanta activist Sandy Thurman Monday as his director of national AIDS policy.

Clinton had been under pressure from AIDS groups to hire a high-profile politician, like former Connecticut Gov. Lowell Weicker, who could command attention on Capitol Hill and in the media. Instead, the president selected someone relatively well-known within the AIDS advocacy community but not outside it.

Thurman’s appointment was welcomed by most AIDS organizations. She is a former director of AIDS Atlanta, the largest organization in the South providing health services and support services to people with AIDS.

“I’ve worked with her, and I can attest that she tells it like it is, she speaks the truth unvarnished, she won’t hold back in this office,” Clinton said of the 43-year-old Thurman, who also served as political director for his re-election campaign in Georgia. “She will have the support and the resources she will need, including my personal support, to succeed in this important task.”

Thurman, an Atlanta native, replaces Patsy Fleming, who resigned late last year. Clinton’s first AIDS adviser was Kristine Gebbie, a former Washington state health director. She was criticized for being ineffective, and resigned in July 1994.

“We are deeply aware of the responsibility that this administration has to all Americans who are living with HIV and AIDS and to those all around the world who turn to us for leadership and hope,” Thurman said.

The problem with the AIDS post - often called the AIDS “czar” - is that it generates high expectations but carries little actual authority.

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