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Looking Back in SGN History: AIDS Update — Administration Lies

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A page from Volume 11, Issue 5  

Dive into the archives of the SGN at https://issuu.com/sgn.org

February 3, 1984

The San Francisco Chronicle's gay reporter, Randy Shilts, has charged that "the Reagan administration has been lying through its teeth about the adequacy of AIDS funding for two years."

In a copyrighted article in the New York Native, Shilts said that:

  • Government officials lied to Congress about shortages in AIDS funding while secretly begging for their superiors for more money.
  • The AIDS Task Force of the Centers for Disease Control has been seriously short of funds since the beginning of the epidemic.
  • Money that was spent for AIDS research by the CDC has to be pirated from funds for other serious diseases.
  • No significant amounts of money were given to researchers for AIDS until March 1983.
  • Bureaucratic bungling has prevented any effective organization of AIDS research efforts right up to the present day.

    When the Chronicle requested internal government memos under the Freedom of Information Act in September 1983, the Reagan administration refused to provide them because, Shilts says, they did not want Congress or the public to know about the campaign of confusion and lies which has reigned in the so-called fight against AIDS. The Chronicle appealed the refusal.

    Finally, in December 1983, the Department of Health and Human Services, headed by Margaret Heckler, released 203 pages of interdepartmental memos on AIDS funding to the Chronicle.

    According to Shilts, the memos were released only because the administration's lies were being revealed anyway in a report by the Subcommittee on Intergovernmental Relations and Human Resources, chaired by Rep. Ted Weiss. [...]

    Last month, Rep. Weiss said it was "appalling" that "this epidemic has been going on for more than three years and they [the federal government] still doesn't have a plan." [...]

    Congress emerges the hero from this brouhaha. Despite lies from officials and a Presidential veto of funding, [Congress] has [forced] millions of dollars for research on the strangely reluctant administration — $12 million in fiscal year 1982, and $40 million in fiscal year 1983 (which the House appropriated in a secret subcommittee vote).

    Aside from the obvious results — that the fight against AIDS has been effectively stymied since June 1981, when the CDC's AIDS task force was first set up, and that the Reagan administration has been shown up [sic] to be a liar — the revelations mean that "the government has [irretrievably] lost its credibility in the scientific community."

    Although money is now flowing to researchers, almost three years after the epidemic was first detected, the fight against AIDS must be wrested away from the control of the Reagan administration. Dr. David Ostrow, a top expert in sexually transmitted diseases among gay men, wants the program to be handed over to scientists who do not work for the federal government. Rep. Weiss wants all funding for AIDS research to come directly from Congress to prevent Reagan's people, and government scientists afraid for their jobs, [from] further subverting the almost-aborted fight against AIDS.

    To view the article in full, go to https://issuu.com/sgn.org/docs/sgn_february_3_1984