30-Year AIDS Report Card: Which Presidents Make the Grade

Obama giving a speech in the White House press room(BlackDoctor.org) — Over the past 30 years, five U.S. Commanders in Chief have led the nation’s response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Who gets good marks? From 1981 to the present, we assess each president’s leadership.

Ronald Reagan (1981-1989)

Biggest Hits: Allowed Surgeon General C. Everett Koop to send a letter to all Americans about AIDS.

Biggest Misses: Ignored the disease for years. Failed to rally public awareness and support. Imposed mandatory HIV testing in numerous federal programs.

The AIDS epidemic arose during his first year in office, yet no U.S. president demonstrated less leadership about the disease or a greater lack of concern for its sufferers than Ronald Reagan. Strongly influenced by the so-called Moral Majority, which believed that AIDS was God’s punishment to gay men and IV drug users, the Reagan administration failed to mount a meaningful public health response at a time when aggressive action might have curbed what would become the greatest public health catastrophe of the 20th century. Ignoring the overwhelming opinion of medical and public health experts, Reagan pursued mandatory HIV testing in federal programs as the centerpiece of his AIDS policy.