Former surgeon general C. Everett Koop has lashed out at the Bush administration and his successor, Antonia C. Novello, for "soft-pedaling" the AIDS crisis.

Koop, in an interview with Reuter, said Novello and the administration were not making enough effort to educate and keep the public informed about the disease that has led to more than 97,000 American deaths since its discovery in 1981.

"The research is going on and the headlines have died down, so a lot of people think we have won the battle, but that's just not true," Koop said. "I just think we have to constantly educate people that the epidemic is not over, that people are still at risk in regard to their behavior."

A spokeswoman for Novello said the surgeon general's approach to the disease is different from Koop's. "The AIDS epidemic has changed, the agenda has changed, and the surgeon general has changed," said press secretary Theresa Hyatt. "At this time, she is investing her energies into meeting with grass-roots groups that are on the forefront of this issue."

Koop was named last week as chairman of the scientific advisory committee for Biopure Corp. of Boston, which develops artificial blood plasma.