Nancy Reagan and the AIDS Crisis
May 15, 1984: President Reagan and Nancy Reagan pose with Rock Hudson at a White House State Dinner. Hudson died from AIDS a year later on October 2, 1985. Image Courtesy: Ronald Reagan Presidential Library
"Ronald Reagan did not say the word AIDS until 1987....At that point, 37,000 Americans had been diagnosed, and 21,000 Americans had died. It was in the throes of the epidemic," according to historian Allida Black.
President Reagan has been criticized for being slow to act on AIDS. Here are two extended interview clips that address how the death of a close friend, Rock Hudson, made the disease real to both Nancy and Ronald Reagan.
Historian Allida Black offers some background and context on the first decade of the AIDS crisis, how President Reagan eventually responded, and how first lady Nancy Reagan pushed him on funding for AIDS research:
In the 1980s, Ron Reagan, Nancy and Ronald's son, was a professional ballet dancer who saw firsthand how AIDS was killing friends and colleagues. In this interview excerpt, he explains how his mother was influential in encouraging the president to do more to fight the epidemic: