- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 25, 2004

BALTIMORE (AP) — Maryland Comptroller William Donald Schaefer spent Christmas Eve delivering meals to homebound HIV-positive persons, a conciliatory gesture after his earlier comments about AIDS provoked anger.

In October, Mr. Schaefer called AIDS patients “a danger,” saying those with the disease “brought it on themselves.” He made the comments as he tried to explain why he advocated establishing a public registry of Marylanders with HIV.

Earlier in the year, Mr. Schaefer angered people by complaining about the English language skills of a McDonald’s employee, but he said Friday that people had him wrong.

“They misunderstood me,” he said. “People jump all over the comptroller and say he’s a mean man and all that sort of stuff.”

At the Highlandtown, Md., headquarters for Moveable Feast, a local organization that gets meals and groceries to AIDS patients, Mr. Schaefer said, “I have great sympathy for people with AIDS.”

Moveable Feast activists said they appreciated Mr. Schaefer’s gesture, which led media organizations to spotlight AIDS on Christmas Eve, something that probably wouldn’t have happened without his efforts.

Moveable Feast Executive Director Vic Basile valued the chance to show Mr. Schaefer and others the true face of AIDS.

“Had he not been, as he says, ‘misunderstood,’ we would not have had the opportunity to engage him like this,” Mr. Basile said. “He’s a compassionate guy, and I don’t think he said anything to be mean-spirited. But his comments reflected what some people believe: that blame is associated with this.”

As cameras whirred at the organization’s office, Mr. Schaefer spoke of his feelings about AIDS before leaving with his entourage to deliver meals.

Moveable Feast serves about 600 HIV-positive people in Baltimore, the surrounding counties and the Eastern Shore. Maryland has the fourth-highest rate of new HIV infection in the country, Basile said.

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