Clinton Appoints First AIDS Czar Summary

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

In an effort to control the HIV-AIDS epidemic and its debilitating health and socioeconomic effects, U.S. president Bill Clinton appointed Kristine Gebbie as the first National AIDS Policy coordinator, or AIDS czar. Gebbie’s mandate was to implement policies and programs that would offer viable solutions to the epidemic.

Summary of Event

When Bill Clinton ran for the U.S. presidency in 1992, he promised to address HIV-AIDS concerns. Part of his campaign platform included increased funding for AIDS research; a concentrated effort to prevent the spread of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS; and the appointment of a national AIDS czar. [kw]Clinton Appoints First AIDS Czar (June 25, 1993) [kw]AIDS Czar, Clinton Appoints First (June 25, 1993) [kw]Czar, Clinton Appoints First AIDS (June 25, 1993) HIV-AIDS[HIV AIDS];first AIDS czar[AIDS czar] AIDS czar [c]HIV-AIDS;June 25, 1993: Clinton Appoints First AIDS Czar[2310] [c]Health and medicine;June 25, 1993: Clinton Appoints First AIDS Czar[2310] [c]Government and politics;June 25, 1993: Clinton Appoints First AIDS Czar[2310] Gebbie, Kristine Clinton, Bill

Once in office, however, Clinton was frequently criticized for not acting on his campaign promise to launch a decisive attack on AIDS. In response to the accusations, Clinton announced at a press conference held at the White House on June 25, 1993, that Kristine Gebbie would be the first National AIDS Policy coordinator, or AIDS czar.

Having served as a state public health administrator, a member of the first presidential commission on AIDS, and a member of various national AIDS committees, as well having served in many other health-related positions, Gebbie was well qualified to direct government programs to promote and centralize the funding, research, treatment, and prevention of HIV-AIDS. During her first four months in office, Gebbie spent most of her time meeting with AIDS policy experts and lawmakers, particularly Donna Shalala, Shalala, Donna secretary of Health and Human Services, and Joycelyn Elders, Elders, Joycelyn the U.S. surgeon general. Surgeon general, U.S. Gebbie interviewed many adolescents who were HIV-positive, then advocated distributing condoms to sexually active high school students. Gebbie and Shalala worked with health experts and legislators to promote the development of a microbicide vaginal foam that would protect women against HIV and sexually transmitted diseases. Regardless of her efforts, many AIDS activists AIDS activism were highly disappointed that she was not doing more.

While addressing the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals about teenage pregnancy and the prevention of AIDS in October, 1993, Gebbie publicly stated her perceptions about traditional morality, suggesting that Americans should alter their views about sex and should no longer repress frank discussions about sex and sexuality, including homosexuality. Her statements stirred significant controversy, and she immediately came under the scrutiny of Christian and pro-family coalitions, including the American Family Association American Family Association;and AIDS czar[AIDs czar] and the Family Research Council. Family Research Council Under pressure, Gebbie clarified her position by pointing out that abstinence Abstinence, and HIV-AIDS from sex was the best way to prevent the spread of HIV, but otherwise it was necessary to use condoms. AIDS activists criticized her for backing down and being weak.

In February, 1994, Gebbie pointed out that about 30 percent of all AIDS cases originated from drug abuse through the use of HIV-contaminated needles. She advocated distributing clean needles to drug addicts and joined President Clinton and the director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, Lee Brown, in supporting a strategy to stop the illegal use of drugs. Carrying out her duties with a rather low profile, Gebbie received continued criticism from AIDS activists. By June, 1994, many activists were clamoring for her resignation. On July 8, 1994, she announced her resignation, effective August 2. Shortly thereafter, Clinton appointed Patsy S. Fleming, Fleming, Patsy S. a declared AIDS activist and an assistant to Secretary Shalala, as the interim AIDS czar. On November 10, 1994, Clinton announced that Fleming had accepted the appointment to serve as the second AIDS czar.

Significance

Because of the dramatic increase in AIDS cases during the 1980’s and 1990’s, Clinton appointed Kristine Gebbie to the position of AIDS czar to address and find solutions to the raging epidemic. Gebbie’s goals had included increasing public awareness and understanding of the disease and obtaining substantial funding for research efforts and preventive measures to control its spread. During her tenure of a little more than one year, Gebbie had some success: She opened lines of effective communication about the AIDS epidemic through discussions with key government and public personnel. She emphasized that AIDS is a nondiscriminatory disease, affecting not only homosexuals and drug addicts but also heterosexuals.

Gebbie successfully identified and helped implement some reasonable AIDS policies and programs. Through her guidance and the leadership of Clinton, the budget for HIV-AIDS research and prevention was increased by more than 30 percent, HIV-AIDS education was provided for federal employees and the public, new HIV-AIDS drugs were researched and developed, and funding was boosted for the Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Resources Emergency (CARE) Act, Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Resources Emergency Act (1990) which was passed in 1990. The appointment of a national AIDS czar was a critical step in centralizing HIV-AIDS care.

Although some positive steps were taken by Gebbie in addressing HIV-AIDS and some of the associated issues, a majority of AIDS activists felt that she was too inexperienced, relied mostly on rhetoric, and kept too low of a profile. Even as the controversy and criticism increased, and Gebbie resigned, a very important pattern had been established in the fight against HIV-AIDS—the selection of an individual who was mandated with federal government power to focus on ways to control and eventually defeat the insidious disease. HIV-AIDS[HIV AIDS];first AIDS czar[AIDS czar] AIDS czar

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Andriote, John-Manuel. Victory Deferred: How AIDS Changed Gay Life in America. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">D’Emilio, John, William B. Turner, and Urvashi Vaid. Creating Change: Sexuality, Public Policy, and Civil Rights. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2000.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Gebbie, Kristine M., Linda Rosenstock, and Lyla M. Hernandez, eds. Who Will Keep the Public Healthy? Washington, D.C.: National Academy of Sciences Press, 2003.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Gostin, Lawrence O., and Michael Kirby. The AIDS Pandemic: Complacency, Injustice, and Unfulfilled Expectations. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2004.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Rimmerman, Craig A., Kenneth D. Wald, and Clyde Wilcox, eds. The Politics of Gay Rights. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Smith, Raymond A., ed. Encyclopedia of AIDS: A Social, Political, Cultural, and Scientific Record of the HIV Epidemic. New York: Penguin Books, 2001.

June 5 and July 3, 1981: Reports of Rare Diseases Mark Beginning of AIDS Epidemic

July, 1982: Gay-Related Immunodeficiency Is Renamed AIDS

Spring, 1984: AIDS Virus Is Discovered

July 25, 1985: Actor Hudson Announces He Has AIDS

September, 1986: AZT Treats People with AIDS

March, 1987: Radical AIDS Activist Group ACT UP Is Founded

June 27, 1988: Report of the Presidential AIDS Commission

December 1, 1988: First World AIDS Day

Categories: History Content