A Political Flashpoint

Description

Epidemiologists identified the first risk groups, all considered socially marginal, as men who had sex with men, Haitian immigrants, and injection drug users. More politically active since the 1970s liberation movement, gay men and their allies organized to provide support for the sick and disseminate information. They also called for more government resources for research.

Most politicians, along with some religious leaders, resisted a coordinated national policy. They restricted immigration by those infected, prohibited using federal money for explicit sex education materials, and required some states to consider compulsory quarantine.

Items in the A Political Flashpoint Collection

Most states still outlawed same-gender sex in the 1980s. Many Americans, deeply offended by homosexuality, objected to any acceptance of it. Some of them considered it a sin, and believed AIDS was a suitable punishment.

1989 candlelight vigil on the Mall in Washington, D.C.

Candlelight vigils often accompanied displays of the Memorial Quilt.

Most states still outlawed same-gender sex in the 1980s. Many Americans, deeply offended by homosexuality, objected to any acceptance of it. Some of them considered it a sin, and believed AIDS was a suitable punishment. Donna Binder, photographer

Activists directed much of their rage at the Reagan administration; the president remained largely silent about the epidemic until 1987 when he declared AIDS “public health enemy number one.” The SILENCE=DEATH emblem, adopted that same year by…