Commentary: AIDS crisis echoes in the political response to COVID-19

Sarah Kasman, center, and Joyce Swaving, left, hand out red ribbons with names of those affected by HIV/AIDS to Laguna Beach High students in 2012.
(File Photo)

The COVID-19 crisis has me haunted by memories of the AIDS crisis in the 1980s, and horrified by our apparent failure to remember its lessons.

Late author and journalist Randy Shilts (“And the Band Played On”) wrote these words in 1989, but they’re devastatingly applicable to our current administration’s criminally inadequate response to the pandemic we face today:

“AIDS had spread …. because politicians, particularly those in charge of federal-level response, had viewed the disease as a political issue, not an issue of public health — they deprived researchers of anything near the resources that were needed to fight it.

“AIDS had spread because government health officials consistently lied to the American people about the need for more funds, being more concerned with satisfying their political bosses and protecting their own jobs than with telling the truth and protecting the public health.”


Californians, set aside your quibbles with our state government for a moment. Be glad that our leaders have reacted swiftly and intelligently to this catastrophe, and for heaven’s sake, do your part to stem the spread of this epidemic so that future generations can learn from our successes, not our mistakes.

The writer lives in Costa Mesa.

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