March 12, 2016 at 9:36 pm EST | by Chris Johnson
Clinton: ‘I made a mistake’ on HIV/AIDS history

Jeanne Shaheen, Hillary Clinton, Lilly Ledbetter, New Hampshire primary, gay news, Washington Blade

U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), left, speaks alongside former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Lilly Ledbetter in Manchester, N.H., on Feb. 5, 2016. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

In the aftermath of controversial remarks in which Hillary Clinton said President Reagan and Nancy Reagan started a “national conversation” on HIV/AIDS, the candidate has come forward with an op-ed saying she “made a mistake” with that recollection of history, spelling out a path forward to reach an “AIDS-free generation.”

The Democratic presidential candidate published the op-ed in Medium the day after she made the controversial remarks during the Nancy Reagan’s funeral. Although Clinton apologized for praising the Reagans for their HIV efforts hours after she made the initial comments, discontent continued.

“Yesterday, at Nancy Reagan’s funeral, I said something inaccurate when speaking about the Reagans’ record on HIV and AIDS,” Clinton writes. “Since then, I’ve heard from countless people who were devastated by the loss of friends and loved ones, and hurt and disappointed by what I said. As someone who has also lost friends and loved ones to AIDS, I understand why. I made a mistake, plain and simple.”

Clinton writes the Reagans “did not start a national conversation about HIV and AIDS” and instead attributes the start of that conversation to “generations of brave lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, along with straight allies.”

“The AIDS crisis in America began as a quiet, deadly epidemic,” Clinton writes. “Because of discrimination and disregard, it remained that way for far too long. When many in positions of power turned a blind eye, it was groups like ACT UP, Gay Men’s Health Crisis and others that came forward to shatter the silence — because as they reminded us again and again, Silence = Death.”

Clinton, who during her tenure as secretary of state called for achieving an “AIDS-free generation,” also outlines a path to help reach that goal over her future presidency. Among the things she pledges to accomplish is increased HIV and AIDS research and investment; expanding access to PrEP, especially for at-risk populations; and encouraging Republican governors to accept Medicaid expansion.

For the first time over the course of her campaign, Clinton in the op-ed comes out against HIV criminalization laws, calling on states “to reform outdated and stigmatizing” statutes that institute penalties for the perceived transfer of HIV.

“We’re still surrounded by memories of loved ones lost and lives cut short,” Clinton writes. “But we’re also surrounded by survivors who are fighting harder than ever. We owe it to them and to future generations to continue that fight together. For the first time, an AIDS-free generation is in sight. As president, I promise you that I will not let up until we reach that goal. We will not leave anyone behind.”

Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, commended Clinton on Twitter for taking the occasion of her gaffe to apologize and start a conversation on HIV/AIDS in Election 2016.

Carl Schmid, deputy executive director for the AIDS Institute, said the op-ed shows Clinton is seeking to make amends for her initial remarks.

“I think it demonstrates that she knows she made a terrible mistake in her comments, that struck a sensitive cord among her supporters, and she is now taking the opportunity to remind them of her long term commitment to fighting HIV/AIDS both here in the U.S. and around the globe,” Schmid said.

Nowhere in the op-ed does Clinton say why she made the remarks in the first place praising the Reagans for their role in HIV/AIDS. The Washington Blade, which has made numerous requests for a Clinton interview that have gone unfulfilled, has renewed that request to seek an explanation from the candidate.

Read Clinton’s op-ed at Medium here.

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

  • Can anyone imagine the kind of media reaction there would be if Bernie Sanders made this gaffe instead of Clinton?

    • You mean like the “meh” response when he said that all black people are poor and live in the ghetto? At least she apologized. Twice. When confronted with his gaffe he said that he wasn’t going to be lectured to. End of story. So yeah, I imagine if Bernie had said this, it would have been either ignored or he would have told gay people to get over it.

      • Wow. That’s a blatant lie. If you’re going to criticize Bernie for his statement, at least get it right.

        Here’s what he said:

        “When you’re white, you don’t know what it’s like to be living in a ghetto. You don’t know what it’s like to be poor. You don’t know what it’s like to be hassled when you walk down the street or you get dragged out of a car.”

        He was referencing the difference between black and white poverty. Now you can absolutely criticize him for that statement, but don’t lie and make it sound like he said all black people are poor and live in the ghetto.

        Just stop lying.

  • Hating on people because they are R or D is like hating on people because they are gay or not. Both are just the wrong way to think.

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