Current Affairs

White House gay activist dies

Tony Grew March 6, 2007
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An HIV+ man who worked as a White House aide to President Bill Clinton and spoke out against government indifference to AIDS has died aged 56.

Bob Hattoy made a memorable speech to the Democratic National Convention in 1992, in which he told America that he did not want to die.

He had just learnt that he had AIDS, and he castigated then-President George Bush senior for doing nothing about the disease.

“We are part of the American family. And, Mr. President, your family has AIDS, and we are dying, and you are doing nothing about it.

“I don’t want to live in an America where the president sees me as an enemy. I can face dying because of a disease, but not because of politics,” he said.

“Bob Hattoy gave people with AIDS and gays in America hope with that speech,” Michael Petrelis, a writer and activist, told

When President Clinton took office he appointed Hattoy to the White House personnel department, and later appointed him to the Presidential Commission on HIV/AIDS.

He served as chairman of the commission’s research committee. He went on to hold senior administrative positions in California.

“Bob was an agitator in the best sense of the word,” said Richard Socarides, a special assistant to Clinton on gay and lesbian policies, told AP.

The current chairman of the Democratic party, Howard Dean, spoke warmly of Mr Hattoy’s contribution to public understanding of HIV and AIDS.

“This weekend, America lost a true champion for justice. Aside from being a fierce advocate on causes ranging from LGBT rights and HIV issues, to civil liberties and the environment, Bob Hattoy was a wonderfully charming man with a tremendous sense of humour.

“Through Bob’s life and service to our country, we are all reminded of the need to do more to encourage greater participation of all Americans, including gays and lesbians, in our political process.”

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