Ronald Reagan’s electoral success in the 1980’s was in part due to Falwell’s mobilization of the Religious Right in this country. The Reagan Administration’s abysmal response to the AIDS crisis was probably related to their electoral reliance on the Religious Right.
This seems to be one of the most popular and enduring mythos in the gay community; the idea that Reagan and other Republicans stood by and laughed evilly as poor, innocent, helpless gays sickened, withered, and died.
However, what no one has ever explained is what, exactly, could they do?
Rule number one of epidemiology: when confronted with a disease you can't cure and which is spreading like wildfire, your priority should be focused on one thing -- removing the pump handle.
The Reagan administration took immediate steps to eliminate the vectors it could control -- the blood transfusion supply, infected needles, and so forth. But when a Democrat mayor did what she could to remove the largest pump handle -- closing the San Francisco bathhouses where unprotected sex most readily spread the disease -- she was almost run out of town on a rail.
The gay community has spent upwards of twenty-five years trying to deny what people knew millenia ago from studying prostitutes; those with the most partners invariably have the most problems. Despite the best efforts of gay leftists to make, to force it to be otherwise, the simple fact remains; HIV/AIDS is a sexually-transmitted disease, no different than the others that came before it.
What that means is simple; the people who could have done the most to control the AIDS epidemic were, not Falwell or Reagan or Feinstein, but the ones who were having the unprotected sex. They chose to have it. They chose to do it without using protection. And they were the ones who chose to, rather than restrain themselves, point the finger of blame at someone else. It is no surprise that, in a quarter of a decade, our infection levels have continued to merrily perk along at Third World levels, affecting both the young and old, and adding the delightful accompaniments of what were once medical anachronisms like gonorrhea and syphilis.
As I have said before, one's serostatus is emphatically a matter of personal choice. However, it infuriates me beyond belief that people are blaming others for supposedly not reacting -- when the only meaningful reaction was opposed tooth and nail by the same people demanding action.