Politics is full of mixed agendas. During the Civil War, some sacrificed to preserve the Union while others gave themselves to abolish slavery. Despite these differing agendas, Americans accomplished both goals. The genius of good politics is to bring people of differing agendas together in a common cause.

In January, gay activists forgot this important principle when they attacked Christian aids activist Jerry Thacker. Thacker had been nominated to the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV and aids, a panel charged with crafting recommendations for the Secretary of Health and Human Services to help alleviate the pain from this disease. Thacker, his wife, and his daughter are all HIV-positive from a contaminated blood transfusion in the mid-1980s. The one-time marketing consultant now speaks to churches and organizations on aids policies, the realities of the disease, and the importance of abstinence and fidelity.

Gay activists apparently consider panels like this one to be their territory. They fed key media a story that would not have stood up had they checked it out. But The New York Times, The Washington Post, the San Francisco Chronicle, the AP, and Reuters carried stories that claimed Thacker had called aids "the gay plague." Tom Daschle hyperventilated, saying it was like "putting a Dixiecrat on the Civil Rights Commission." The Bush administration panicked and distanced itself from Thacker. Thacker graciously withdrew his name.

What Thacker had actually said (and what only The Washington Times took the time to check out) was this: On his website, Thacker wrote that before 1986, when he discovered he was infected, he "knew vaguely about the 'gay plague' known as AIDS." Now that is what the medical community and many in the gay community were calling it back then. On no more evidence than that, he was smeared and sabotaged. To be part of the Presidential Advisory Council, it was the gay way or the highway.

The council's executive director, Patricia Ware, resigned a few weeks later. "The position that [Ware] was in has been politicized to the point where I don't know that there's anything that she could do, short of adopting a totally progay agenda," Thacker said in an online interview with CT.

Special-interest politics is lethal by nature. By hijacking the aids agenda for their political purposes, gay activists are saying no to thousands of willing foot soldiers in the fight against aids. We may see more die from HIV/AIDS because gay activists are intolerant of social conservatives.

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Recent articles in major papers have breathlessly reported that there are influential evangelicals behind President Bush's aggressive new strategy for fighting the disease in Africa. Evangelicals are not newcomers to HIV/AIDS ministry. CT, for example, was reporting on the intersection of aids and church life by 1985 and devoted a lengthy cover treatment to church-based ministry by 1987. We continue to report on healthy approaches to the problem. But while conservative Christians as a whole have been slow to mobilize broadly against aids/hiv, we are now poised for effective action. This reality is symbolized by the outspoken advocacy of Franklin Graham (see CT, Nov. 18, 2002). Compassion runs deep in our congregations.

The gay community was slow to respond to HIV. That was the point of Randy Shilts's And the Band Played On. Today it is too slow in accepting the help of heartland America. Thacker decided he could accomplish more outside the council. Presidential advisory panels are not a primary instrument of social change. But they are good for bringing together disparate voices and building coalitions. By bushwhacking Thacker, gay activists have indefinitely postponed the day when we can work together effectively against HIV/AIDS.

Related Elsewhere

In an exclusive online interview, AIDS activist Jerry Thacker told CT that the politics of homosexuality has made it easier to battle the disease in foreign countries than domestically.

Previous Christianity Today articles on fighting the AIDS epidemic include:

ABC vs. HIV | Christians back abstinence-fidelity plan against deadly virus. (March 10, 2003)
Bono's American Prayer | The world's biggest rock star tours the heartland, talking more openly about his faith as he recruits Christians in the fight against AIDS in Africa. (Feb. 21, 2003)
Killing a Pandemic | The church may be best equipped to deal HIV/AIDS a crippling blow. (Nov. 18, 2002)
U.S. Blacks Preach Abstinence Gospel | Mission workers testify that Christ helps control sexual urges. (March 27, 2002)
Mercy Impaired | Let's shock the world by reversing our apathy toward African sufferers. (September 27, 2001)
Kenyan President Suggests Hanging for 'Knowingly' Infecting Others with AIDS | Church organizations criticize use of capital punishment as solution to epidemic. (July 19, 2001)
Dying Alone | Baptist women seek out and care for ashamed, abandoned AIDS patients. (June 15, 2001)
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Few to Receive Generic AIDS Medicines | Pharmaceutical companies drop suit against South Africa, but problems remain. (May 18, 2001)
Zambia's Churches Win Fight Against Anti-AIDS Ads | Church leaders are concerned that condom promotion encourages promiscuity. (Jan. 12, 2001)
Mandela, De Klerk, and Tutu Join to Fight AIDS | South Africa's men of peace call for end of silence and stigmatization. (Dec. 14, 2000)
Speaking with Action Against AIDS | A report from the Thirteenth International AIDS Conference. (July 19, 2000)
'Have We Become Too Busy With Death?' | As 4,900 people die each day from AIDS, African Christians are faced with the question. (Feb. 4, 2000)
'Sexual Revolution' Speeds Spread of HIV Among Africans | An interview with World Relief's Debbie Dortzbach. (Feb. 4, 2000)
Books & Culture Corner: An Open Letter | To the U. S. Black Religious, Intellectual, and Political Leadership Regarding AIDS and the Sexual Holocaust in Africa (Jan. 24, 2000)
Africa: Fidelity Urged to Fight AIDS (July 12, 1999)
Global Death Rates May Skyrocket (May 24, 1999)
I Am the Father of an AIDS Orphan (Nov. 17, 1997)

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