Activists say Nancy Reagan should have pushed harder on AIDS

NEW YORK (AP) — Gay-rights and HIV/AIDS activists remain bitter at Ronald Reagan for a slow response to the AIDS crisis in the 1980s. Views are more mixed about his wife, Nancy, but there’s regret that she didn’t push sooner and more forcefully for stepped-up government action.

The first news reports about AIDS surfaced in 1981, just months into the Reagan presidency. Yet Reagan didn’t make an early push to fund expanded medical research and didn’t make his first public comments about AIDS until 1987, by which time more than 20,000 Americans had died of its complications.

Nancy Reagan, who died Sunday at 94, had substantial influence on her husband, but neither spoke out publicly about AIDS nor left a documented record of pressing her husband on the issue early on in the crisis.