amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research

amfAR Mourns the Passing of Dr. C. Everett Koop, a Champion in the Fight Against AIDS

Former U.S. Surgeon General led public awareness efforts at the height of AIDS epidemic

Dr. C. Everett Koop Dr. C. Everett Koop's appointment as U.S. Surgeon General in 1981 coincided with the first reports of a deadly new infectious disease that would come to be known as AIDS.  Dr. Koop was thus destined to be the nation's physician during the greatest public health crisis of our time.

Appointed by President Ronald Reagan, the deeply religious and staunchly conservative Surgeon General shocked his supporters when in 1986 he issued a detailed report on AIDS, in which he urged people to practice “safe sex” and advocated sex education for third graders.

Working within the confines of an administration that was signally unwilling to mount a robust response to the growing epidemic, Dr. Koop orchestrated the mailing of an educational pamphlet on AIDS to more than 100 million American households—the largest public health mailing of its kind. 

“Admiral Koop was a public health hero and a pioneering, courageous leader in the fight against a disease that now affects 34 million people worldwide,” said Rear Admiral Susan Blumenthal, M.D. (ret), amfAR’s Senior Policy and Medical Advisor and a former Assistant U.S. Surgeon General who served with Dr. Koop in the United States Public Health Service and contributed to that first AIDS brochure.

“He shone a spotlight on HIV/AIDS, advocating for science and increased public awareness. His actions were a wake-up call to Americans, providing an important foundation for the progress that would be made in the fight against the disease in the years ahead.”

Dr. Koop’s bold actions and pronouncements on AIDS earned him the abiding respect of the public health and AIDS advocacy communities.  In 2009, amfAR honored him with its Award of Courage. 

Dr. Koop passed away at his home in Hanover, New Hampshire, on Monday, February 25.  He was 96.