Editors' Note: Guest blogger Will Kohler is a freelance writer and activist from Cincinnati, Ohio. Will blogs at Back2Stonewall.com.
30 years ago today, on June 5, 1981, that the Center for Disease Control first published a report on the mysterious epidemic that we have now come to know as AIDS.
And while Republicans and the Tea Party proudly wallow in the revisionist life history of Ronald Reagan let us, the friends, the family, and the also the victims of this mans bigotry and homophobia remember the truth and continue to shout it to high heaven so it is never forgotten of the genocidal part that Reagan played that killed almost an entire generation of gay men.
Ronald Reagan was and always should be remembered as the President who helped bring back poverty to the masses, the President who changed American foreign policy, by selling arms to Iran, and forwarding the profits to right-wing Central American dictators to help fund their death squads, and most of all as the President who IS GUILTY of Genocide and Murder against the gay community and is personally responsible for the deaths of thousands who died of AIDS
Ronald Reagen deliberately ignored one of the deadliest diseases in history of the world which is now affecting over 70 million people around the globe all in the name of God, bigotry and homophobia.
In 1981 with the emergence of the AIDS epidemic also came the emergence of the Christian Right, who which Reagen ushered into power and disgustingly seized the moment as a sign of God's abhorrence for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. Reagan, who saw the first signs of the AIDS epidemic in 1981, his first year in office, . said "maybe the Lord brought down the plague because illicit sex is against the Ten Commandments."
Ronald Reagan may have done laudable things but he was also a monster and, in my estimation, responsible for more deaths than Adolf Hitler. He is one of the persons most responsible for allowing the plague of AIDS to grow from 41 cases in 1981 to over 70 million today. He refused to even say the word out loud for the first seven years of his presidency and when he did speak about it it was with disdain. He was, in the words of his domestic policy adviser, Gary Bauer, "irrevocably opposed to anything having to do with homosexuality" (personal communication with me in his White House office in April of 1983). As I write in my book The Tragedy of Today's Gays (Penguin, 2005), "I can locate no work of any urgency, or indeed, much work at all, on AIDS" during his entire presidency, thus allowing many millions of gay men all over the world to be exposed to the virus without so much as a warning from anyone in his government. Those of us on the front lines can attest to this stone wall that was unbreachable. - Larry Kramer
AIDS research was chronically under-funded. When doctors at the Centers for Disease Control and the National Institutes of Health asked for more funding for their work on AIDS, they were routinely denied it. Between June 1981 and May 1982 the CDC spent less than $1 million on AIDS and $9 million on Legionnaire's Disease. At that point more than 1,000 of the 2,000 reported AIDS cases resulted in death; there were fewer than 50 deaths from Legionnaire's Disease. This drastic lack of funding would continue through the Reagan years
In 1986, Reagan ordered Surgeon General C. Everett Koop to prepare a major government report on AIDS. Critics attacked Reagan for ordering the report on the same day he submitted requests to reduce the AIDS budget, according to the Globe. Koop's report called for mandatory sex education for children as early as elementary school, but Reagan's education secretary, William Bennett, and his undersecretary of education, Gary Bauer, strenuously opposed those efforts, calling for abstinence-oriented education.
But Reagan still remained silent to the public
Finally near the end of 1986 Reagan requested $85 million for AIDS research, but Congress horrified at the low number bumped that figure up to $244 million only to have Reagan then unsuccessfully try to rescind $50 million of that figure, according to the Boston Globe, he ultimately agreed to Congress' figure. In 1987, Reagan proposed cutting the research budget for AIDS down to $214 million. Congress again responded dramatically against Reagen by raising it to about $400 million.
It would not be until 1987 when pushed that Reagan would publicly speak about the AIDS epidemic in a major policy address. By the end of that year, 59,572 AIDS cases had been reported and 27,909 of those women and men had died. He and his administration did almost nothing during the first seven years of the epidemic. AIDS research was chronically underfunded. Community education and prevention programs were routinely denied federal funding and would have been even more so if Regan had had his way. Only when pushed did Reagan offer any assistance.
By this time AIDS patients were dying at a rate of about 80 per week.
As Barbra Streisand put it in an address to an AIDS Project Los Angeles fundraiser in 1992: "I will never forgive my fellow actor Ronald Reagan for his genocidal denial of the illness' existence, for his refusal to even utter the word AIDS for seven years, and for blocking adequate funding for research and education which could have saved hundreds of thousands of lives."
One of the most memorable and disgusting Reagan AIDS moments was at the 1986 centenary re dedication of the Statue of Liberty. The Reagan's were there sitting next to the French Prime Minister and his wife, Francois and Danielle Mitterrand. Bob Hope was on stage entertaining the all-star audience. In the middle of a series of one-liners, Hope quipped, "I just heard that the Statue of Liberty has AIDS, but she doesn't know if she got it from the mouth of the Hudson or the Staten Island Fairy." As the television camera panned the audience, the Mitterrand's looked appalled. The Reagan's were laughing.
At that time nearly, 115,786 women and men had been diagnosed with AIDS in the United States-- and more then 70,000 of them had died.
Ronald Reagan died on June 5th 2004.
Within 3 years of Reagan's death the Center of Disease Control in 2007 would estimates the cumulative number of deaths of persons with AIDS in the U.S. to be 583,298, including children.
How many of these victims our LGBT family, our friends, our lovers, our brothers and our sisters would be alive today if Reagan had acted as a President should have in the midst of a deadly epidemic is unknown. But with proper funding and aggressive research and treatments when the AIDS epidemic reared its ugly head would have made a great difference and many of those we have lost would be with us today.
Let us never forget Ronald Reagan and his role in the genocide of hundreds of thousands in our community, and may be rightfully be rotting in hell because of it.
Crossposted at Back2Stonewall.com.