The Reagans and AIDS: “If there is a hell both Ronny and Nancy are Roasting.”


Never, ever forget this.

The first lady who looked away: Nancy and the Reagans’ troubling Aids legacy, by Maria L La Ganga (The Guardian)

As the nation mourns the former first lady’s death, those on the frontline of the 1980s Aids crisis remember something else: a couple who turned a blind eye

Between Nancy Reagan’s death and her funeral on Friday 11 March, the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence reached out in their own wimpled way to share their pain, their anger and, occasionally, their sympathy.

The activists, in trademark Catholic drag, spent the Aids crisis fighting on behalf of infected friends and lovers – and for dying men they would never know. As much of the nation mourned the former first lady’s passing this week, their email anguish underscored the Reagan administration’s darker legacy.

Ronald Reagan, who died in 2004, was president for nearly five years before he said the word “Aids” in public, nearly seven years before he gave a speech on a health crisis that would go on to kill more than 650,000 Americans and stigmatize even more.

In recent months, published reports have revealed an administration that laughed at the scourge and its victims and a first lady who turned her back on Rock Hudson, a close friend, when he reached out to the White House for help as he was dying from an Aids-related illness.

“If there is a hell both Ronny and Nancy are Roasting,” wrote one Sister.

Previously at NAC:

World AIDS Day, Randy Shilts, his book and why it matters.