White House vetting top AIDS researcher to lead health agency

One of the nation’s leading AIDS researchers and an expert in the treatment of heroin addiction is the leading candidate to oversee the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A formal announcement about the candidate, Robert Redfield, could come as early as Tuesday, once the vetting has been finished, said an administration official with knowledge of the appointment.

The review is likely to be thorough. President Trump’s first CDC director, Brenda Fitzgerald, resigned in January amid reports that she held investments in tobacco and health care companies that posed potential conflicts of interest.

A professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, Redfield founded the Institute of Human Virology along with Robert Gallo, who developed the blood test for the human immunodeficiency virus.

Best known for his years as an AIDS researcher, Redfield, 66, oversees an extensive program providing HIV care and treatment to more than 6,000 patients in the Baltimore-Washington area, the university’s website says.

He also has years of experience treating heroin addicts, who account for as many as half of the HIV and AIDS patients the institute treats. He has been a proponent of medically assisted treatment for addiction.

“I think he’s a superb candidate, first rate,” said Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, a Democrat. She said Redfield once proposed that every hospital spend at least 10 percent of its budget to treat addiction.

Redfield’s career has had some controversy. As an early AIDS researcher, he proposed mandatory testing, a prospect that was opposed by many liberals and gay activists.

Sheila Kaplan is a New York Times writer.

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