Former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop—known for his medical advocacy and his evangelical Christian faith—died today at age 96. This article originally appeared in the March 19, 1990, issue of Christianity Today.
Former U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop says he is pessimistic about the chances of finding a cure for AIDS and is troubled by the social impact of the disease. Speaking to a group of pastors meeting last month in Chicago, Koop called upon Christians to develop "a ministry of compassion, medical help, and comfort to those dying" of AIDS. He noted that many of the great missionary hospitals founded a century ago for leprosy patients are today filled with AIDS patients, and he urged the church leaders to pattern their response to AIDS after the church's response to leprosy in years past.
"I don't think we will ever see a cure," said Koop, who left office last fall after eight years as the nation's public-health leader. Nor does he foresee development of a vaccine. At best, a treatment that would prevent the HIV virus from growing in the bloodstream and postpone the resulting infections might eventually be produced.
Koop said he has observed a growing feeling that "the epidemic is over." He also pointed with concern to complacency and a "we-they" attitude among most Americans who feel they are not at risk and are content to let AIDS sufferers "stew in their own juices." While the Bible clearly condemns homosexual behavior, at the same time it teaches that "it is our obligation as believers in Christ to separate the sin from the sinner," he said. "In AIDS we are fighting a disease, and not the people who have it."