Hillary Clinton said the Reagans “started a national conversation” about HIV and AIDS in the 1980s during a Friday interview before former first lady Nancy Reagan’s funeral in Simi Valley, California.
“It may be hard for your viewers to remember how difficult it was for people to talk about HIV/AIDS back in the 1980s. And because of both President Reagan and Mrs. Reagan, in particular Mrs. Reagan, we started a national conversation, when before nobody would talk about it, nobody wanted to do anything about it,” Clinton said at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library.
Clinton also praised Reagan for her “very effective, low-key advocacy.”
“It penetrated the public conscience. And people began to say, ‘Hey we have to do something about this too,'” she said.
But many were quick to point out Reagan’s mixed legacy addressing the start of the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
Nancy Reagan reportedly turned down a request from her friend, the actor Rock Hudson, to be transferred to another hospital so he could receive necessary treatment for complications related to AIDS in 1985, according to BuzzFeed. Hudson died less than two months later.
In December 2014, Mother Jones published transcripts of President Reagan’s press secretary Larry Speakes joking about AIDS and subsequent research in 1982, 1983, and 1984.
Before the funeral started, commentators noted the First Lady’s commitment to finding a cure for Alzheimer’s disease, which her husband suffered from later in life.
Watch the interview with Clinton via MSNBC:
Hillary Clinton: The Reagans, particularly Nancy, helped start “a national conversation” about HIV and AIDS. https://t.co/7sZp8X53fb
— MSNBC (@MSNBC) March 11, 2016