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How Activists Fought for Patients’ Rights During the AIDS Crisis

By the year 1987, the AIDS epidemic had reached grim proportions. The disease had killed almost 60,000 people worldwide, and more than 40,000 were HIV-positive in the United States alone. The majority of those ravaged by the disease were gay men. Despite mounting cases and deaths, President Ronald Reagan had not said the word AIDS in public until September 1985.

To many, it seemed like the U.S. government had been willfully ignoring what had grown into a global health emergency.

“In the history of the AIDS epidemic, President Reagan’s legacy is one of silence,” AIDS activist Michael Cover said in a June 8, 2004 SFGATE editorial. “It is the silence of tens of thousands who died alone and unacknowledged, stigmatized by our government under his administration.”

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