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Policy & Politics

AIDS Advocates "Still Angry" Over Reagan's "Lack of Leadership" on HIV/AIDS, New York Times Reports

June 9, 2004

AIDS advocates have been "clearly sympathetic" to the family of former President Reagan, who died on Saturday, but are "still angry over his policies" on the disease, the New York Times reports. Advocates have long claimed that Reagan's "lack of leadership" on the disease "significantly hindered" HIV/AIDS research and prevention efforts, according to the Times (Toner/Pear, New York Times, 6/9). Although the federal government first appropriated funding for AIDS research in 1982, the Reagan administration for several years regarded the disease as a state and local problem (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 6/8). The Times reports that Reagan "did not make extensive public comments on AIDS until 1987" (New York Times, 6/9). However, according to the Washington Post, Reagan did not make his first speech on the disease until May 1988, about eight months before he left office. By that time, more than 36,000 people in the United States were HIV-positive and 20,849 had died of AIDS-related causes, the Post reports (Pianin/Edsall, Washington Post, 6/9). The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force on its Web site has posted an open letter written by NGLTF Executive Director Matt Foreman addressing a friend who died of AIDS-related causes, saying, "I have tremendous empathy and respect for Mrs. Reagan, ... [b]ut even on this day I'm not able to set aside the shaking anger I feel over Reagan's non-response to the AIDS epidemic or for the continuing anti-gay legacy of his administration." Foreman in an interview said that Reagan's inaction on the epidemic "can't be forgotten," adding, "I owe it to the people I lost not to forget it, not to pretend like it didn't happen." However, Gary Bauer, who served as Reagan's domestic policy adviser for the last two years of his presidency, said that Reagan's "strong belief in cabinet government" led him to "largely cede the job of speaking out on AIDS" to Surgeon General Dr. C. Everett Koop and the HHS secretary, according to the Times. Bauer added that funding amounts allocated to AIDS research increased under the Reagan administration (New York Times, 6/9).

Reagan Policies Led to AIDS Drug Development, Opinion Piece Says
Although advocates have "excoriated" Reagan for "not caring about the emergency of the AIDS epidemic," his administration's promotion of "medical progress" led to the development and approval of the first antiretroviral drugs, Manhattan Institute for Policy Research Center for Medical Progress Director Robert Goldberg writes in a Washington Times opinion piece. Reagan supported the 1983 Orphan Drug Act, which encourages pharmaceutical companies to invest in rare drugs by offering seven years of market exclusivity, fast-track approval and tax credits. In addition, Reagan "pushed for and won passage" of the Federal Tech Transfer Act of 1986, which created cooperative research and development agreements that have "greatly benefited public health and the NIH," Goldberg says, adding that "[w]ithout them, the first AIDS medicines ... might have been developed many years later or never been successfully produced." In addition, the Reagan administration pressured FDA to "dramatically" reduce the time and money required for the approval of new antiretrovirals and expand early access to the drugs through larger and non-randomized clinical trials, Goldberg says (Goldberg, Washington Times, 6/9).

Back to other news for June 9, 2004

Reprinted with permission from You can view the entire Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, search the archives, or sign up for email delivery at The Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report is published for, a free service of the Kaiser Family Foundation, by The Advisory Board Company. © 2004 by The Advisory Board Company and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.


This article was provided by Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. It is a part of the publication Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report. Visit the Kaiser Family Foundation's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.
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