Kristine Gebbie, the first American tsar against AIDS, died at 78

Kristine Gebbie, a health policy expert who served as the the nation’s first AIDS czar in the early 1990s, he died on May 17 in Adelaide, Australia. she was 78 years old

The cause was cancer, his daughter Eileen Gebbie said.

After serving as chief health officer for the states of Oregon and Washington and as a member of two national panels formed by President Ronald Reagan trying to cope with the emerging AIDS epidemic, Dr. Gebbie, a nurse, is she was recruited by President Bill Clinton in June 1993 to deliver on her campaign promise that she would make the disease a public health priority.

Hey he called her national coordinator of AIDS policies promote prevention strategies, provide resources to states and communities to establish their own programs, and reconcile the efforts of federal agencies, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Public Health Service, and the National Institutes of Health.

Several major candidates had already turned down the job and Dr. Gebbie accepted it with no illusions. Although the appointment made her a member of the President’s Domestic Policy Council, his office never reached the stature or effectiveness that AIDS activists had hoped for.

“It leads you into almost all the complicated human questions you face,” he told the Los Angeles Times in 1993. “What does human sexuality mean? What is the balance between an individual’s rights and responsibilities and rights and the 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 do not fight it with everything we have? “

He preferred to provide clean needles to drug addicts, distribute condoms to sexually active teens, and incorporate AIDS education into health curricula, even for young children. Many Conservatives opposed those positions, as they opposed his earlier criticisms of the Reagan administration’s proposal for routine testing of marriage license applicants, federal prisoners, and some other groups.

“You don’t talk to them about safe sex,” said Dr. Gebbie said: “but teach them that their body is something to take care of and that viruses can ruin it.”

Federal AIDS spending increased under Dr. Gebbie’s watch and his appointment was announced at a ceremony at the Rose Garden, but he didn’t work in the White House; his office was in a building across the street that also housed a McDonald’s.

“My guess,” he said The New York Times in 1993, “is that my choice makes it clear that this is not meant to be someone who spends all their time outside arousing people, but someone who is ready to spend a lot of time inside to make it work.

“It is very clear how many people really expected miracles,” he added. “When I give what I know to be appropriate answers, I know I sound like a bureaucratic stick in the dirt: ‘This lady is not worth two pennies to us; you talk about coordination and cooperation. Blah! ‘

“But it’s part of my mission,” said Dr. Gebbie continued, “it’s helping people keep their expectations within reality.”

Several AIDS activist organizations called for it to be replaced and it didn’t last long in the job; she resigned after 13 months, in July 1994.

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

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

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

She received her bachelor’s degree in nursing from St. Olaf College, Minnesota in 1965, her master’s degree in community mental health from the University of California, Los Angeles, in 1968, and her doctorate in public health from the University of Michigan. in 1995 .

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

As an epidemiologist and emergency preparedness authority, she was a member of the AIDS task force for the American Association of State and Territorial Health Officials and was subsequently enlisted by the Reagan White House AIDS Commission, although she had criticized the Reagan administration’s response to the outbreak as inadequate.

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

She taught at Flinders University’s Torrens Resilience Initiative and the University of Adelaide Nursing School in Australia, where she moved with her husband, Lester Nils Wright, a physician, and where they both retired. Dr. Wright passed away last month.

Her first marriage, with Neil Gebbie, ended in divorce. In addition to her daughter Eileen, her children survive from her first marriage, Anna, Sharon and Eric Gebbie; her stepchildren Jason and Nathan Wright; her sister, Sina Ann; 10 grandchildren; and a great-granddaughter.