POZLife: Life from the Infected and Effected point of veiw.

Prominent AIDS and gay rights activist dies at 49

Posted by pozlife on November 10, 2007

R. Scott Hitt was the first openly gay person to head a presidential advisory board
LOS ANGELES (AP) | Nov 9, 12:17 PM

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

Hitt died Thursday of colon cancer at his home in West Hollywood, according to John Duran, the city’s mayor and a longtime friend.

Hitt was chairman of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV and AIDS during President 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, 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, Hitt focused his activism on gay and lesbian issues. He continued practicing as an AIDS doctor until he was hit by allegations in 2000 that he sexually molested two male patients.

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

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

While battling cancer, he continued with his activism and started a foundation to promote activism in the gay and lesbian community.

Hitt is survived by his companion of 27 years, Alex Koleszar, and his sisters Alana Hoffman and Heather Martin.

A native of Tucson, Ariz., he will be buried in his home state. A memorial service will also be held at All Saints Parish in Beverly Hills in December, Duran said.

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