The Fight Against AIDS

In the 1980s, the AIDS epidemic struck the U.S. with a vengeance, with ground zero in San Francisco. Two SI grads, over the years, have led the fight against this terrible disease — Dr. Eric Goosby ’70 and Dr. Joseph O’Neill ’71 — as AIDS Czars in the Clinton and Bush administrations.

In the 1980s, Dr. Goosby worked as an assistant professor at UCSF and in the AIDS Oncology Division at San Francisco General Hospital as Director of the Human Immunodeficiency Virus/Intravenous Drug Using Clinic. He discovered new methods for treating HIV-infected intravenous drug users before becoming, in 1991, director of HIV Services at the U.S. Public Health Service/Health Resources and Service Administration. Three years later, he became director of the Office of HIV/AIDS Policy in the Department of Health and Human Services where he fought for HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment and research. In 1997, while still with the HHS, he acted as interim director of the National AIDS Policy Office at the White House, reporting directly to President Clinton as his senior advisor on HIV-related issues. He later served as deputy director of the National AIDS Policy Office in the White House before moving back to the Bay Area where he now works as CEO of the Pangaea Global AIDS Foundation.

Dr. O’Neill took on the job of Director of the Office of National AIDS Policy in July 2002, and he has worked to influence President Bush’s agenda in the fight against this disease. He helped to secure $15 billion to combat AIDS in African and Caribbean countries. This desire to stem the pandemic abroad came after O’Neill visited Africa in 1996, seeing firsthand the effects of this disease. In addition, he spends his Fridays treating HIV infected patients at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine’s free clinic. He does this, in part, to draw attention to the fact that the disease targets the poorest Americans who make up the majority of the 40,000 people who contract this disease each year in the U.S.

O’Neill’s two brothers are both Jesuit priests and SI grads: Fr. Tom O’Neill, SJ ’74, who teaches fine arts at USF and is chairman of SI’s Board of Trustees, and Fr. William O’Neill ’70, who teaches theology at the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley. Also, Dr. O’Neill’s parents, Margaret and Bill, are members of SI’s Heritage Society.