The Surgeon General and the Moral Politics of Public Health
This chapter demonstrates the religious and moral languages employed in the first major national AIDS education campaign. It narrates the leading role of America’s celebrity surgeon general, C. Everett Koop, an evangelical pro-life activist appointed by President Ronald Reagan. This chapter demonstrates how government actors debated moral, and even religious, approaches to public health and sex education. Surgeon General Koop’s statements and published works about the best way to handle the AIDS crisis, and the reaction those publications received from religious and political parties, set the tone for future government approaches. Indeed, through Koop’s national AIDS campaign, they advanced a specific moral politics of public health and sexuality privileging abstinence and monogamy, an approach that reached nearly every American household and laid the groundwork for later sex education programs.
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