With so many closed minds now controlling federal AIDS policy, to whom might we appeal for help with even a glimmer of getting a fair hearing? Secretary of State COLIN POWELL, co-coordinator (with Tommy Thompson) of an interagency task force on AIDS, spoke openly on MTV about his support for condom use among the sexually active -- and lived to tell the tale. New CDC head JULIE GERBERDING, MD, may have genuflected verbally to the abstinence-only line when she got her prestigious appointment (“Abstinence and monogamy are the first line of defense against HIV/AIDS”), but as a longtime AIDS researcher in San Francisco, at least she does knows the disease firsthand. Whether (to borrow the late Bella Abzug’s phrase) she has the ovaries to make waves in fighting the epidemic remains to be seen. ANTHONY FAUCI, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, was reputedly passed over for NIH chief because of his pro-choice views. But word is that, from his perch at NIAID, this AIDS heavyweight has Thompson’s ear. However, does HHS secretary TOMMY THOMPSON -- who quickly retracted his announcement that he plans to resign come spring -- have the administration’s? JOSEPH O’NEILL, MD, the new AIDS czar, has so far been a silent cipher. And he’s getting praise from Coburn and Ware -- a bad sign. Is the ever-so-diplomatic openly gay HIV doc a fig leaf -- or an effective conduit and advocate for the AIDS community? Only time will tell.