This weekend marks a somber milestone in history: Thirty years since the first published reports of HIV/AIDS in the United States. Although HIV/AIDS was originally considered a problem of white gay men, Blacks have been hard-hit by the disease since the earliest days of the epidemic. By 1993, Blacks accounted for a nearly a quarter of AIDS cases by 1983. Today, African Americans are barely 13 percent of the population, yet make up half of all those living and dying with HIV/AIDS in the USA.
The Black AIDS Institute and the NAACP have released "30 Years Is Enuf: the History of the AIDS Epidemic in Black America." The authoritative report chronicles the history of HIV/AIDS in Black America, the response, medical breakthroughs and a roadmap for the future.
Five presidents have led the nation’s response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic over the past 30 years—and not all have risen to the occasion. In the report, the two organizations graded five presidents—Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama—on how well they handled the epidemic.
The Republican presidents fared the worst. Reagan received the lowest grade possible: F. "No U.S. president demonstrated less leadership about the disease or a greater lack of concern for its sufferers than Ronald Reagan," said the report. "Reagan didn’t give his first speech on AIDS until 1987. By then over 36,000 Americans had been diagnosed with the disease and 20,000 people had died."
Clinton scored the highest with a "B" for aggressively increasing HIV/AIDS funding and awareness domestically and globally. Clinton "also initiated outreach to educate Black leaders about AIDS’ disproportionate impact on their constituents," said the report.
George H.W. and George W Bush received a "C".
President Obama was given an "incomplete." The President was lauded for launching a National HIV/AIDS Strategy (NHAS) and overhauling health care. But the report found the Administration has "failed to ensure that domestic AIDS funding keeps pace with need", and notes that only time will tell how successful his presidency has been in the fight against AIDS.
Read the report card HERE.