LAST JULY when the White House announced the names of those children to serve on the Commission on the Human Immunodeficiency Virus Epidemic, we expressed high hopes for a commission so "broadly representative." Perhaps we spoke too soon, for it is now apparent that the diversity of the AIDS panel members is producing more conflict than cooperation. Two commisisoners have already resigned, the executive director has been forced out, and the only physician with AIDS experience on the staff has quit.

The panel received a broad mandate from the White House. it was to study the "medical, legal, ethical, social and economic impact" of AIDS and make an initial report to the president by Dec. 7. While a variety of reasons hae een given for the resignation of the chairman, Dr. W. Eugene Mayberry, the head of the Mayo Clinic, he has not explained his decision. The vice-chairman, Dr. Woodrow Meyers, who also rsigned, was more candid: "I felt that there was no way that anybody else {except Dr. Mayberry} could coalesce this group and make it work efficiently. There are strong ideological perspectives, strong personalities and differences in leadership style" on the commission.

Adm. James Watkins now takes over as chairman of the commission, and if he is to prevent a total fiasco he must act quickly. The open slots on the commission need to be filled immediately, and there should be less emphasis on political agendas and more on AIDS expertise. Panel members who can't subordinate egos and personal causes to a larger public-service interest should resign. It would be better to extend the life of the commission if the work has to begin again with new members than to continue the squabbling and the stalemate. A first-rate staff is urgently needed too. There are now only two people working for the commission, though 15 slots have been authorizesd. Can't staff be borrowed temporarily from one of the many federal agencies that know something about this epidemic?

This weekend, many thousands of gay and lesbian activists are expected to come to this city in a March on Washingotn. Millions of other Americans share their concern about AIDS and the government's plans to meet the crisis. This is the time for a strong statement from the White House on the commission's future and a hard-headed reassessment of its membership and its task.