Kristine Gebbie, America's first AIDS czar, dies at 78

Kristine Gebbie, a health policy expert who was the the country’s first AIDS czar in the early 1990s, died May 17 in Adelaide, Australi...


Kristine Gebbie, a health policy expert who was the the country’s first AIDS czar in the early 1990s, died May 17 in Adelaide, Australia. She was 78 years old.

The cause was cancer, her daughter Eileen Gebbie said.

After serving as health director for the states of Oregon and Washington and a member of two national panels, formed by President Ronald Reagan, seeking to address the emerging AIDS epidemic, Dr. Gebbie, a nurse, has was recruited by President Bill Clinton in June 1993 to fulfill his campaign promise to make the disease a public health priority.

He named her national AIDS policy coordinator to design prevention strategies, offer resources for states and communities to establish their own programs, and balance the efforts of federal agencies, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Public Health Service, and the National Institutes of Health.

Several more prominent candidates had already rejected the post, and Dr. Gebbie accepted it with no illusions. Although his appointment made him a member of the President’s Domestic Policy Council, his office never achieved the stature or effectiveness that AIDS activists had hoped for.

“It takes you to almost every complicated human question you have to deal with,” she told the Los Angeles Times in 1993. “What does human sexuality mean? What is the balance between the rights and responsibilities of an individual and the rights and responsibilities of a community? What is our responsibility towards people at the end of life? At what point do we accept the reality of death and not fight it with all we have?

She supports the provision of clean needles to drug addicts, the distribution of condoms to sexually active adolescents and the integration of AIDS education into health programs, even for young children. Many conservatives opposed these positions, as they had opposed his previous criticisms of the Reagan administration’s proposal for routine testing of marriage license applicants, federal prisoners, and certain other groups.

“You don’t tell them about safer sex,” Dr Gebbie said, “but you teach them that their body is something to take care of and that viruses can mess it up.”

Federal AIDS spending increased under Dr. Gebbie’s leadership, and her appointment was announced at a ceremony in the Rose Garden, but she has not worked since the White House; his office was in a building across the street that also housed a McDonald’s.

“I guess,” she said The New York Times in 1993, “is that my choice clearly indicates that it is not someone who spends all his time outside waking people up, but someone who is willing to spend a lot of time inside so that that works.

“It’s very clear how many people were really expecting miracles,” she added. “When I give what I know to be appropriate responses, I know I sound like a bureaucrat who doesn’t care: ‘That lady is no good to us; it speaks of coordination and cooperation. BLA bla!’

“But part of my mission,” Dr. Gebbie continued, “is to help people keep their expectations in reality.”

Several AIDS activist organizations demanded that she be replaced, and she did not last long in this position; she resigned after 13 months, in July 1994.

During Dr. Gebbie’s tenure, President Clinton said in a statement at the time that the federal government had increased funding and other resources “for prevention and research, accelerated the process of research and approval of new drugs and required that every federal employee receive comprehensive on-the-job training”. .” He thanked her for giving a boost to “this vitally important battle when it was desperately needed and long overdue”.

Kristine Elizabeth Moore was born June 26, 1943, in Sioux City, Iowa, to Thomas Moore, a career military officer, and Irene (Stewart) Moore, who worked for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

She moved from Panama to the Philippines to New Mexico as her father redeployed to the military; she was also raised for a time by her maternal grandparents in Miles City, Mont. She was inspired by an aunt, Susie Stewart, to become a nurse and worked as a health aide in high school.

She received her Bachelor of Science in Nursing from St. Olaf College in Minnesota in 1965, her Masters in Community Mental Health from the University of California, Los Angeles in 1968, and her Doctor of Public Health from the University of Michigan in 1995. .

She served as Oregon State Health Administrator from 1978 to 1989 and Washington State Health Secretary from 1989 to 1993.

As an epidemiologist and authority on emergency preparedness, she was a member of the AIDS Task Force of the American Association of State and Territorial Health Officials and later enlisted by the White House AIDS Commission of Reagan, even though she had criticized the Reagan administration’s response to the epidemic as insufficient.

She was professor of nursing at Columbia University School of Nursing and director of Columbia’s Center for Health Policy from 1994 to 2000. She served as dean of the Hunter-Bellevue School of Nursing from 2008 to 2010.

She taught at the Torrens Resilience Initiative at Flinders University and at the University of Adelaide School of Nursing in Australia, where she had moved with her husband, Lester Nils Wright, a doctor, and where they all two retired. Dr. Wright died last month.

Her first marriage, to Neil Gebbie, ended in divorce. Besides her daughter Eileen, she is survived by her children from her first marriage, Anna, Sharon and Eric Gebbie; her stepsons, Jason and Nathan Wright; his sister, Sina Ann; 10 grandchildren; and a great-granddaughter.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Kristine Gebbie, America's first AIDS czar, dies at 78
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