As point man in America’s war against AIDS since 1984, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, 50, has had to walk through a political minefield almost as daunting as the lethal virus itself. Hailed as a hero by George Bush for advancing the national effort in AIDS research, he also has earned the respect of AIDS activists who once accused him of moving too slowly and costing lives.
Fauci is both chief of AIDS research for the National Institutes of Health and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, positions that require him to delicately balance scientific goals and humanitarian needs. “No matter what you decide on, there will be those who praise you and those who will go so far as to call you a murderer,” he says. “The saving grace is that, fundamentally, I’m a scientist, and science is the thing that is immutable. Do the science correctly, and ultimately you will be doing good for people.”
No one has ever questioned Fauci’s dedication. He regularly works 15-hour days, and his accomplishments include the clarification of the precise mechanism whereby the AIDS virus destroys the body’s defenses, and helping make the research community more sensitive in dealing with AIDS activists. Significantly, while other administration officials were booed during the Sixth International Conference on AIDS held in San Francisco last June, Fauci was given a standing ovation.
Brooklyn-born, a graduate of Holy Cross and the Cornell medical school, Fauci has spent his professional life, and more, at NIH in Bethesda. Md., where his wife. Christine Grady, 38, is a nurse who also works with AIDS patients. “I’ve given up a substantial amount of my family life,” says Fauci, who sets aside only Sundays for taking the couple’s two daughters. Jennifer, 4, and Megan, 21 months, “on long walks to see the ducks.” He doesn’t see his own life getting much better until a way is found to stop the AIDS epidemic. “In this country over a million people are HIV-infected, and unless we get an effective therapy…the vast majority of these people will develop AIDS,” he warns. “The worst is still ahead.”