October 16, 2023

Rebutting the Revisionist History of AIDS

The Washington Post dubiously claims that Ronald Reagan did not address AIDS until homosexuals launched their National Coming Out Day.

This past Wednesday, October 11, was the 35th anniversary of National Coming Out Day, and to mark the occasion The Washington Post came out with an article of politically motivated revisionist history that smeared Ronald Reagan and conservatives for something promiscuous homosexuals did. Rebutting that screed requires a trip down memory lane.

Back in 1982, just a few years after a novel virus began spreading across the U.S. primarily among homosexual men, that virus was first named Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, or AIDS. Notably, prior to receiving the AIDS name, it had been dubbed gay-related immune deficiency due to the fact that it seemed only homosexual men were acquiring it.

Eventually, it spread to others, though it was clear that AIDS was still spreading most rapidly among homosexual men, who notoriously engaged in a sexually promiscuous lifestyle. And it was this sexual promiscuity that was quickly established as the primary means of the deadly virus’s transmission.

While AIDS was not confined to the homosexual “community,” that small group writ large was primarily suffering from it. Furthermore, at that time within the broader American culture, homosexuality was still viewed as a deviant and immoral lifestyle.

That view is one of the reasons why little was said publicly about the disease early on. Indeed, President Ronald Reagan only first publicly mentioned AIDS in 1985. And while the deadly effects of the disease and its primary means of transmission had been recognized, there were still many unknowns.

This began to change in 1985, when the first American celebrity died of AIDS, Rock Hudson. Hollywood stars such as Elizabeth Taylor began highlighting the spreading virus, shining a brighter spotlight on it.

The following year, the retrovirus that caused AIDS was named human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV. As our old pal former NIAID Director Anthony Fauci stated at the time, “One million Americans have already been infected with the virus and … this number will jump to at least two million or three million within five to 10 years.” Also in 1986, Reagan directed Surgeon General C. Everett Koop to further investigate and present a report on AIDS. Back in 1983, Reagan had established an Executive Task Force on AIDS, which Koop had not been a part of.

In 1988, Koop delivered a report titled “Understanding AIDS.” This eight-page report was sent to all 107,000,000 households in the U.S. It told Americans how they could protect themselves from AIDS. It pointed out specifically that AIDS was transmitted via sexual contact and drug use, and it advised abstinence and monogamy as means of protecting oneself. In other words, avoid risky behavior.

Sexually transmitted diseases have long been a plague on humanity. Everyone has known that promiscuity can lead to acquiring dangerous and debilitating diseases. When AIDS came on the scene, it happened to be one of the deadliest of the STDs.

Yet while much work had been done in seeking to understand the disease and its means of transmission, for homosexuals, that knowledge and the means of avoiding it wasn’t enough or acceptable. They were never going to follow guidance that required a true change in their own behavior.

Which brings us back to The Washington Post. Its article, titled “The first National Coming Out Day [NCOD] 35 years ago took on Reagan and AIDS stigma,” makes the false claim that until this first event, in which thousands of gay men and lesbians paraded on October 11, 1988, in Washington DC, Reagan and his administration were “largely ignoring” AIDS. As noted above, that is far from the case.

While it would be accurate to recognize that the vast majority of Americans did view homosexuality negatively, that did not equate to a refusal to acknowledge the problem of AIDS.

Furthermore, diseases that were plaguing Americans at a much higher rate, like cancer, for example, were of equal if not more significant concern. Arguably, since the means of the transmission of AIDS had been determined, and changing problematic lifestyle choices would easily protect an individual from acquiring the disease, the urgency to find a cure was simply not as pressing.

Yet the problem is that too many people were and are loathe to give up a dangerous and immoral lifestyle. “I was frightened of the predatory aspect of AIDS,” AIDS activist Jay Blotcher told the Post. “I was doing everything to avoid it.” Except ceasing a homosexual lifestyle.

Indeed, the founder of NCOD, Robert Eichberg, would later die of AIDS in 1995. As the Post put it, “Eichberg, who would later write the seminal book ‘Coming Out: An Act of Love,’ was not able to avoid contracting AIDS himself.”

On the one hand, the LGBTQ community demand that the government leave them alone — as they often state, the government needs to stay out of the bedroom. On the other hand, when they begin to suffer the consequences of their own promiscuous behavior, then suddenly it’s the government’s job to mitigate and protect them from their poor choices.

Reagan did not fail homosexuals. They are the ones who chose to abandon the God-given morality surrounding sexuality and thus found themselves suffering the consequences.

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