Reagan’s AIDS legacy: tens of thousands of deaths as represented by the AIDS Quilt. Photo: National Institutes of Health.
Statement from Gloria La Riva
PSL candidate for President
Hillary Clinton seems incapable of telling the truth. Her obsequious desire to flatter right wing political icons has led her to outlandishly praise Nancy and Ronald Reagan for their role in the AIDS crisis of the 1980's.
Clinton just re-wrote history in her desire to pour flattery on those that the Tea Party holds so dear. Ronald Reagan and Nancy Reagan acted like insensitive monsters while tens of thousands of gay men were dying from the AIDS epidemic in the 1980's. Anti-gay bigotry from the Reagans and other high government officials helped make sure that there were thousands of needless deaths.
I moved to San Francisco in 1981, as AIDS was first becoming national news. The conversations among activists, gay and straight, was one of fear and trepidation. "Gay cancer," "Kaposi's sarcoma," were what we first heard.
It was also the era of Reagan's regime, coinciding exactly with the first years of AIDS. Reagan's policy on AIDS was an abominable catastrophe for the LGBTQ community and later, everyone.
In the face of a storm of protest, Clinton now says that she made a mistake but this isn't credible. She was trying to pander to the right wing by putting a halo over the heads of Ronald and Nancy Reagan but her base of support rose up in indignation. Hillary Clinton is an opportunist, pure and simple. She cannot be trusted!
Instead of treating the illness as a medical crisis, Reagan's policy was a politically motivated, bigoted weapon.
It was not until years later, September 1987, that his "Presidential Commission on AIDS" panel was first convened. In the words of one expert at the time, Dr. Sheldon M. Wolff, it was regarded as "universally negative" by one expert, incapable of being able to begin to resolve the crisis. The panel included right-wingers who proposed banning infected children from schools, who denounced the sole gay panelist for being gay and supposedly representing that "special interest group."
Such was the atmosphere that AIDS activists, fighters for life, had to contend with.
Hillary Clinton has just praised Nancy Reagan for her "quiet advocacy." The reality is that it was Ronald Reagan and his administration — and Nancy Reagan as his defender and public voice — who deliberately misled and neglected this increasingly raging crisis.
It took hundreds of militant protests, civil disobedience actions and disruptions of AIDS-related conferences by activists demanding real action like speed-tracking medical developments. They proclaimed openly that being HIV-positive was not a crime.
I and my comrades were part of that struggle, blocking San Francisco's Market Street, chaining ourselves to the Federal Building, giving direct solidarity to our friends who courageously fought for survival. Tragically, many died. I remember Vince, Tede, Bill, Philippe, George, Hugh, Joey, too, too many to mention.