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Deadly AIDS policy failure by the highest levels of the US government: A personal look back 30 years later for lessons to respond better to future epidemics

Abstract

Successful control of any dangerous epidemic requires: (i) early understanding of the epidemiology of the disease and (ii) rapid applications of preventive interventions. Through the lack of both policy and financial support, the United States Centers for Disease Control (CDC) was severely handicapped during the early years of the AIDS epidemic. Senior staff of the Reagan Administration did not understand the essential role of Government in disease prevention. Although CDC clearly documented the dangers of HIV and AIDS early in the epidemic, refusal by the White House to deliver prevention programs then certainly allowed HIV to become more widely seeded. As much of the international health community relies on CDC for up-to-date prevention advice, these actions by the White House surely increased the spread of HIV around the world. To respond better to future epidemics, we need to understand the deadly forces that inhibited CDC at that time.

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A former United States Centers for Disease Control official, who starting in 1981 shared responsibility for mounting a public health response to AIDS, reflects on how the Reagan Administration amplified the epidemic's damage by blocking governmental action in the critical early period.

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Francis, D. Deadly AIDS policy failure by the highest levels of the US government: A personal look back 30 years later for lessons to respond better to future epidemics. J Public Health Pol 33, 290–300 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1057/jphp.2012.14

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Keywords

  • HIV
  • AIDS
  • epidemic
  • history
  • public health
  • government failure