Dr. Eric Goosby is President Obama's
choice to fill the vacancy left by the departure of AIDS Relief Chief
Dr. Mark Dybul, an openly gay man, in January.
Goosby, 56, is an HIV/AIDS specialist
who began his work in treating AIDS patients at San Francisco General
Hospital during the early years of the pandemic. He served as deputy
director of the White House Office of National AIDS policy and
director of the Office of HIV/AIDS Policy at the Department of Health
and Human Services during the Clinton administration. Goosby has
served as CEO and chief medical officer of the San Francisco-based
Pangaea Global AIDS Foundation since 2001.
Goosby will helm the President's
Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, PEPFAR. An appointment which carries
the status of ambassador. The position was created by President
George W. Bush in 2003.
PEPFAR remains a political hot potato.
Conservatives and evangelicals like to call the program Bush's
greatest success, but HIV prevention experts have long disagreed.
Several say the program has actually increased the number of HIV
The program has distributed life-saving
antiretroviral drugs to more than 2.1 million men, women and children
in fifteen focus countries decimated by the AIDS pandemic, twelve of
which are in Africa. Critics, however, say the money – Congress
just pledged $48 billion – was not well spent. They point out
that only 20% of the budget is used for prevention and of that
one-third to one-half (the figure varied between authorizations) must
be used for abstinence-only programs lauded by social conservatives.
It funds neither clean needle exchange programs for IV drug users,
nor AIDS prevention programs targeted at sex workers, two of the
largest at-risk groups.
Condom distribution is shunned in favor
of abstinence programs by many of the organizations on the ground
receiving PEPFAR support.
PEPFAR's political fire is not confined
to how the money is spent, but also who's influencing those
decisions. Rev. Rick Warren, the evangelical pastor who found
himself at odds with the gay and lesbian community after he likened
gay marriage to an incestuous relationship and supported a gay
marriage ban in California, had worked closely with
Bush administration officials on AIDS prevention in Africa.
And ardent anti-gay former Senator Jesse Helms was on board with the
goals of PEPFAR.
AIDS itself remains greatly
stigmatized, even more so in Africa where conservative lawmakers have
used the AIDS pandemic to rationalize dogmatic legislation aimed at
marginalizing gays, despite a glut of research that proves
heterosexual sex remains the major conduit for HIV transmission on
the continent. Lawmakers supporting a bill in the Nigerian Assembly
that would criminalize a gay or lesbian couple living together say it
is necessary to break the links between “sodomy” and AIDS.
Social conservative groups had praised
Dybul and called his firing – one of President Obama's first tasks
in office – a “scapegoating.” They now worry what the change
in leadership will mean to their faith-based approach to AIDS relief.
“Right now, agencies like Catholic
Relief Services can opt out of programs that provide for condom
distribution,” Catholic League President Bill Donohue said in a
statement. “But under Goosby, this may change. He will be under
enormous pressure by radical feminists, gay activists and assorted
sexologists to force faith-based organization to get on board or get
Both the International Association of
Physicians in AIDS Care (IAPAC) and AIDS Action applauded Goosby's