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Reagan and AIDS: Debunking “A Powerful Myth Among Gay Americans”

Over at NRO, Deroy Murdock debunks–or, rather, demolishes–a gay myth:

[A]…powerful myth endures among many gay Americans and also on the broader left. Their story: Ronald Reagan passionately hated homosexuals….

As the [nearby] chart…confirms, federal anti-AIDS spending grew dramatically throughout Reagan’s term. The $8 million that Reagan approved in 1982 rocketed to $2.3 billion in 1989. The average annual increase in federal expenditures on HIV/AIDS under Reagan was 128.92 percent….

Libertarians, conservatives, and liberals can debate the wisdom and scope of federal spending in every area, including AIDS. But only someone with cinder blocks over his eyes could examine these taxpayer dollars and claim that Ronald Reagan did anything other than actively deploy federal resources to combat AIDS….

  1. flownover

    Ok, let’s take a look at Bush’s spending in Africa on AIDS now. It has made a real impact.

    Obviously the Band Playing On ( re: Shilts) is the Democrat Party. 

    Democrat memes about Republicans are usually as reliable as the CIA Crack in the Ghetto nonsense. I guess with the MSM as your handmaiden, you can play it loose and fast with the truth.

  2. Mel Foil

    At the beginning of the outbreak–of the immune-deficiency syndrome that was informally called the gay plague –there were no treatments–only prevention measures. Gay men hardly needed Ronald Reagan to tell them that it was a serious problem, or tell them how to avoid it. If your friends are dying, that’s a clue that it’s a problem. And fairly soon, people knew that you avoided it by changing your behavior. It wasn’t a political issue. It was a medical issue.

  3. John Peabody

    I have to say I’m often suspicious of simple charts. Wasn’t HIV virtually unknown in 1982? That is to say, this dramatic increase could merely be the Federal Government cranking up to speed? In that case, it would be possible to argue that it should have cranked faster, and not get most of the increase in the last two FYs. Also, it’s fairly easy to increase something 128% when you start with such a low figure.

  4. Mel Foil
    John Peabody: I have to say I’m often suspicious of simple charts. Wasn’t HIV virtually unknown in 1982? That is to say, this dramatic increase could merely be the Federal Government cranking up to speed? In that case, it would be possible to argue that it should have cranked faster, and not get most of the increase in the last two FYs. Also, it’s fairly easy to increase something 128% when you start with such a low figure.

    We already had a federal infrastructure to handle the outbreak of a new disease. It’s called the Centers for Disease Control. To ramp up beyond that, you first have to know the mechanism of the disease. To get from typical symptoms that define a disease, to the underlying cause, takes time. And in the case of AIDS, it took some expertise that was fairly rare in the early 1980s.

  5. Paul A. Rahe
    C

    Ronald Reagan was an actor in Hollywood. He had lots of friends who were homo-erotically inclined, and he had no desire to see them mistreated.

  6. Mendel

    Having heard discussions on this topic by several prominent researchers and clinicians who worked on HIV/AIDS during the years after its emergence (including a few depicted in And the Band Played On), there are a few points of critique regarding the response of the Reagan administration that seem valid to me – mostly, that the reaction came a little too late, and that some government agencies were not as supportive as they might have been.

    However, none of these criticisms demonstrate a personal failing on the part of Reagan to me.  Government agencies are by their nature unable to adapt to emerging problems, and it is important to remember that many non-governmental health organs were also very slow to respond to the HIV threat.  And dealing with individual public health threats is not part of the president’s portfolio.

    I suppose the most valid criticism of Reagan’s early HIV policy would be that he set a tone among his agencies which made it difficult – but by no means impossible – to provide resources to stem the nascent crisis in its early years.

  7. Mendel
    Mel Foil

    We already had a federal infrastructure to handle the outbreak of a new disease. It’s called the Centers for Disease Control.

    The sentiment that “everything’s ok – we have a government agency to handle this” should be anathema to every conservative. Even the CDC suffers from many of the problems which plague all government bureaucracies – lethargy, territorialism, complexity – which can make responding to a dynamic threat very difficult. 

    That’s not to say that CDC dropped the ball on HIV/AIDS, but some head-bashing from above might have helped things progress faster – or not, we’ll never know.

  8. Mendel

    One last point (apologies for serial posting, but this topic is important to me personally and professionally) is that the perception of HIV/AIDS among the general public was much different in the early 80′s than it is today.  As long as the disease primarily affected homosexuals, many people only showed a passing interest in it.  While I was quite young at the time, I still remember what a profound impact Ryan White had – suddenly HIV wasn’t a virus restricted to bath houses, and clamor among the populace to do something increased as exponentially as the dollar figures in Peter’s graph.

  9. Nick Stuart

    It’s been a long time since I read And The Band Played On by gay journalist Randy Schilts (who, if I recall correctly, died of AIDS).

    Shilts gave Reagan, and C. Everett Koop, credit for doing what could be done. He also pointed out how gay public health professionals in San Francisco were ostracized by other gays when they said the bathhouses had to be closed and they had to ramp back their promiscuous lifestyles.

    But all that is conveniently forgotten by Leftists looking for someone to blame besides themselves.

  10. flownover

    Thanks Nick, and the media and entertainment business quietly pulled their blinds , killed the stories and the bodies piled up. Now they obfuscate the issues with “bullying” ? It is a vocal and animated movement, but they have been betrayed by certain manipulative segments who shut down the debate at the most critical point. Their tactics are questionably desperate , why ? Is this not simple suffrage from a societal segment ?

  11. Palaeologus
    Mendel: One last point (apologies for serial posting, but this topic is important to me personally and professionally) is that the perception of HIV/AIDS among the general public was much different in the early 80′s than it is today.  As long as the disease primarily affected homosexuals, many people only showed a passing interest in it.  While I was quite young at the time, I still remember what a profound impact Ryan White had – suddenly HIV wasn’t a virus restricted to bath houses, and clamor among the populace to do something increased as exponentially as the dollar figures in Peter’s graph. · 2 hours ago

    Edited 1 hour ago

    I think Magic was the much bigger deal, culturally.

    He pitched a pretty big fit about G.H.W. Bush’s willingness to engage. Of course, he was a guy who was used to getting whatever he wanted, with one obvious exception.

  12. liberal jim

    You prove once again there is little difference between Republicans and the hated liberals.  Your premise is the same as liberals use;  how much of others peoples money you are willing to spend demonstrates how much you care about any given group.   What nonsense!

  13. Paul Stinchfield
    liberal jim: You prove once again there is little difference between Republicans and the hated liberals.  Your premise is the same as liberals use;  how much of others peoples money you are willing to spend demonstrates how much you care about any given group.   What nonsense! · 7 hours ago

    Did you even bother to read this? The gay-left attack on Reagan is based on two principle lies: (1) that Reagan hated gays, and (2) that Reagan did nothing about AIDS. Both are addressed in the linked article and the Ricochet comments.