Saturday, March 19, 2016

Hillary Clinton's gaffe on Reagan and AIDS in the 1980s: she should know better, but the CDC was doing its job under Reagan

Kevin Naff has a major editorial in the Washington Blade, “Hillary’s Painful Mistake
Naff, whom I met in 2009 at a party after the Blade had been forced to reorganize by the folding of its parent company, gives lots of details about Hillary’s work on the AIDS issue in the past. She should have known better.

Further, even when Bill Clinton took office (and started the long road to ending the ban on gays and eventually transgender in the military – to take 17 years and more) HIV was still far from manageable.  Reagan’s record of personal avoidance must have been clear to her then.  Protease inhibitors didn’t start to work reliably until the mid 1990s, and the side effects remained a real problem until maybe 2000, when it seemed some tweaking made that part of the problem more manageable.

It must be said, however, that the CDC itself worked steadily during the Reagan years.  I would actually meet Jim Curran personally at a meeting in Dallas in late 1982, when AIDS got its name (changed from GRID).  The test was announced in April 1984.  I remember all the loud articles about conspiracy in the New York Native (Charlie Ortleb’s paper, which I actually visited in 1986).  AZT became available around 1987.  The nature of volunteer work would change (for me, with Oak Lawn Counseling in Dallas and Whitman Walker in Washington) as HIV gradually became less of a “gay male disease” than it first had been, and became more connected to poverty (in the West, as well as in Africa).  But it’s hard to see how progress could have been a lot faster than it was – until the late 1990s when the disease was really becoming more manageable.

I also recall the nasty political scene in Texas in 1983, before HIV was identified, when some legislators tried to pass very draconian anti-gay laws, banning “us” from many jobs, in an environment where police raids of bars and false arrests had been common only three years earlier (in 1980).

It’s well to remember this history in some detail.  Especially for presidential candidates.

Update: April 15, 2016

There is a correlated story "comparing" HIV and Zika as to political risk on one of my Wordpress blogs, here.

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