I actually hope to get a serious answer to this question, and would have posted in GQ but I figured it’d come here quick enough. And maybe by starting here, we’ll avoid an uglier place.
There are a few threads afoot about Reagan, and a few people are voicing the opinion that Mr. Reagan was clearly an evil man as he denied and delayed spending money to find a cure for AIDS. I question this on a few levels.
A quick disclaimer: The below is my personal recollection and understanding of things. I have no cites or real facts to back me up. I’m happy to be proven wrong (or right for that matter). Further, I am not anti-gay and I believe AIDS spending was and is very important. Also, I’ve had friends who’ve been taken by the disease. Now…
As I recall, when AIDS was first discovered, there was a lot of fear, but not a lot of death. It was along the lines of Sars, that it was horrible and everybody wanted to avoid it, but in the scope of things, the deaths were in the hundreds or maybe even thousands, but nothing like the sorts of numbers cancer racks up for example. As I recall,for a few reasons, the actual deaths were often signficantly overstated. My recollection was that long before significant numbers of people were dying (or even known to be infected), Reagan had already invested a great deal of money towards it’s cure.
Further, my recollection of events is that the huge drop in the death rate was directly attributable to changes in behaviour, not in medical advances. My understanding is that by the time serious medical advances came along, the infection rate had already been dramatically lowered. Also, my recollection is that the behavioural risks that led to AIDS were well-known by the public from the very beginning, so that this wasn’t any sort of secret that the government could’ve exposed by spending money earlier.
So, I ask, hopefully on a purely factual basis: If funding for AIDS had’ve been delivered more promptly, would there have been significantly fewer deaths? And I’ll also ask the question in a considerably more caustic format: If Ronand Reagan had never delivered a dime of the billions that he committed for AIDS research, would there be significantly more deaths?
By the way, I specifically put the “U.S.” in the title. I understand the very severe situation in Africa, and understand and agree that earlier funding perhaps could’ve made a difference there. But I suspect those around here critical of Mr. Reagan’s AIDS policies are referring specifically to U.S. deaths, and mainly to U.S. deaths in the past.