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R. Scott Hitt; Doctor Led Presidential AIDS Panel

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By Daisy Nguyen
Associated Press
Saturday, November 10, 2007

R. Scott Hitt, an AIDS specialist and the first openly gay person to head a presidential advisory board, has died. He was 49.

Dr. Hitt died Nov. 8 of colon cancer at his home in West Hollywood, Calif., according to John Duran, the city's mayor and a longtime friend.

Dr. Hitt was chairman of the President's Advisory Council on HIV and AIDS during President Bill Clinton's administration in the 1990s.

"I think Scott's legacy was drawing AIDS to the attention of the president. He was uncompromising," Duran said. "He was not afraid of challenging the president about what would make good public policy."

When Clinton released a set of goals in December 1996 that called for a cure, a vaccine and a guarantee of quality care for AIDS patients, Dr. Hitt pressed for more measures to stem the rapid spread of the disease among intravenous drug users.

"We're going to hold the administration's feet to the fire to make sure the steps they take accomplish the goals they set," he told the Associated Press in an interview at the time.

He criticized the Clinton administration for its reluctance to fund needle exchange programs, which he said were proven to prevent the spread of HIV.

As the number of AIDS-related deaths declined after the advent of virus-fighting drugs, Dr. Hitt focused his activism on gay and lesbian issues. He continued practicing as an AIDS doctor until he was accused in 2000 of sexually molesting two male patients.

Dr. Hitt, in an interview with the Los Angeles Times, acknowledged touching one patient inappropriately and "crossing a boundary" with another patient. He said that he learned he had colon cancer a year earlier and that, after undergoing three surgeries and chemotherapy, his judgment was "impaired."

He later gave up his medical license after being arrested on suspicion of possessing a controlled substance.

While battling cancer, Dr. Hitt started a foundation to promote activism in the gay and lesbian community.

He is survived by his companion of 27 years, Alex Koleszar, and two sisters.

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