Activists demand Hillary Clinton end AIDS epidemic by 2025 after Reagan gaffe

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Clinton Apologizes for Comment on Reagan's AIDS Legacy


AIDS advocates seizing on Hillary Clinton's gaffe about Nancy Reagan's "low-key advocacy" to fight the disease are demanding the Democratic frontrunner prove her support by pledging to end AIDS by 2025.

Seventy activists from across the country are trying to make the best of Clinton's statement by using it to propel HIV/AIDS to the forefront of the 2016 presidential campaign — in which it has not been a major issue previously. They released an open letter to Clinton on Tuesday.

"Silence still equals death, Secretary Clinton," said the letter, obtained by TheWrap. "We now have the tools to stop HIV transmission and AIDS deaths, and some of our most affected urban centers like New York City and San Francisco are making dramatic progress towards realistic goals to end their epidemics as early as 2020."

The advocates include representatives of the Human Rights Campaign, Gay Men's Health Crisis, and ACT UP New York.

Among the demands, advocates want Clinton to appoint an HIV advisor for her campaign, set a meeting with AIDS/HIV activists, offer a "viable plan" to end the national epidemic, and increase funding to fight the disease by at least $2 billion per year by 2020. They also want the pledge to end the epidemic by 2025.

RELATED GALLERY: See photos of Hillary Clinton rallies in Ohio

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Activists demand Hillary Clinton end AIDS epidemic by 2025 after Reagan gaffe
Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton speaks during a rally at Cuyahoga Community College Tuesday, March 8, 2016, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
Former President Bill Clinton greets attendees as he campaigns for his wife, Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, at the Ohio Education Association, Wednesday, March 9, 2016, in Columbus, Ohio. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Former President Bill Clinton, center left, has pictures taken with attendees as he campaigns for his wife, Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, Wednesday, March 9, 2016, at the Ohio Education Association in Columbus, Ohio. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton speaks during a rally at Cuyahoga Community College Tuesday, March 8, 2016, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
Former Columbus, Ohio Mayor Michael B. Coleman listens as former President Bill Clinton speaks while campaigning for his wife, Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, at the Ohio Education Association, Wednesday, March 9, 2016, in Columbus, Ohio. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Attendees take cell phone photos of President Bill Clinton as he campaigns for his wife, Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, at the Ohio Education Association, Wednesday, March 9, 2016, in Columbus, Ohio. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton reacts after being introduced before speaking during a rally at Cuyahoga Community College Tuesday, March 8, 2016, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
Supporters cheer as Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton speaks during a rally at Cuyahoga Community College Tuesday, March 8, 2016, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton speaks during a rally at Cuyahoga Community College Tuesday, March 8, 2016, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton speaks during a rally at Cuyahoga Community College Tuesday, March 8, 2016, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
Supporters watch as Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton speaks during a rally at Cuyahoga Community College Tuesday, March 8, 2016, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
A man holds up an iPad to get a photo of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaking during a rally at Cuyahoga Community College Tuesday, March 8, 2016, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton shakes hands with supporters after speaking during a rally at Cuyahoga Community College Tuesday, March 8, 2016, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton speaks during a rally at Cuyahoga Community College Tuesday, March 8, 2016, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton steps to the podium to speak during a rally at Cuyahoga Community College Tuesday, March 8, 2016, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks during a rally at Cuyahoga Community College Tuesday, March 8, 2016, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
An attendee wears a sticker on her cheek while waiting to hear Hillary Clinton, former Secretary of State and 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, not pictured, speak during a campaign event in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S., on Tuesday, March 8, 2016. Clinton and Bernie Sanders made last bids for support in Michigan's Democratic primary Tuesday, with both arguing they would be able to navigate the gridlock in Washington that's spawned anger among voters of both political parties. Photographer: Ty Wright/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Hillary Clinton, former Secretary of State and 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, speaks during a campaign event in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S., on Tuesday, March 8, 2016. Clinton and Bernie Sanders made last bids for support in Michigan's Democratic primary Tuesday, with both arguing they would be able to navigate the gridlock in Washington that's spawned anger among voters of both political parties. Photographer: Ty Wright/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Hillary Clinton, former Secretary of State and 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, stands for a photograph with an attendee during a campaign event in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S., on Tuesday, March 8, 2016. Clinton and Bernie Sanders made last bids for support in Michigan's Democratic primary Tuesday, with both arguing they would be able to navigate the gridlock in Washington that's spawned anger among voters of both political parties. Photographer: Ty Wright/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Hillary Clinton, former Secretary of State and 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, speak during a campaign event in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S., on Tuesday, March 8, 2016. Clinton and Bernie Sanders made last bids for support in Michigan's Democratic primary Tuesday, with both arguing they would be able to navigate the gridlock in Washington that's spawned anger among voters of both political parties. Photographer: Ty Wright/Bloomberg via Getty Images
An attendee wears a button in support of Hillary Clinton, former Secretary of State and 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, during a campaign event in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S., on Tuesday, March 8, 2016. Clinton and Bernie Sanders made last bids for support in Michigan's Democratic primary Tuesday, with both arguing they would be able to navigate the gridlock in Washington that's spawned anger among voters of both political parties. Photographer: Ty Wright/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Attendees stand for the Pledge of Allegiance during a campaign event for Hillary Clinton, former Secretary of State and 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, not pictured, in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S., on Tuesday, March 8, 2016. Clinton and Bernie Sanders made last bids for support in Michigan's Democratic primary Tuesday, with both arguing they would be able to navigate the gridlock in Washington that's spawned anger among voters of both political parties. Photographer: Ty Wright/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Hillary Clinton, former Secretary of State and 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, shakes hands with attendants while arriving to speak during a campaign event in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S., on Tuesday, March 8, 2016. Clinton and Bernie Sanders made last bids for support in Michigan's Democratic primary Tuesday, with both arguing they would be able to navigate the gridlock in Washington that's spawned anger among voters of both political parties. Photographer: Ty Wright/Bloomberg via Getty Images
CLEVELAND, OH - Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks to a gym full of supporters at Cuyahoga Community College during an election night rally in Cleveland, Ohio on Tuesday March, 8, 2016. (Photo by Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - Supporters listen to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as she speaks in a full gym at Cuyahoga Community College during an election night rally in Cleveland, Ohio on Tuesday March, 8, 2016. (Photo by Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
An American flag is seen in the jacket pocket of an attendee during a campaign event for Hillary Clinton, former Secretary of State and 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, not pictured, in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S., on Tuesday, March 8, 2016. Clinton and Bernie Sanders made last bids for support in Michigan's Democratic primary Tuesday, with both arguing they would be able to navigate the gridlock in Washington that's spawned anger among voters of both political parties. Photographer: Ty Wright/Bloomberg via Getty Images
CLEVELAND, OH - At Cuyahoga Community College, Clinton supporters wait at former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's election night rally in Cleveland, Ohio on Tuesday March, 8, 2016. (Photo by Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - At Cuyahoga Community College, Clinton supporters pledge allegiance at former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's election night rally in Cleveland, Ohio on Tuesday March, 8, 2016. (Photo by Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - At Cuyahoga Community College, Clinton supporters wait at former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's election night rally in Cleveland, Ohio on Tuesday March, 8, 2016. (Photo by Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - Supporters listen to primary results just before former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke to a full gym at Cuyahoga Community College during an election night rally in Cleveland, Ohio on Tuesday March, 8, 2016. (Photo by Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - Supporters listen to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as she speaks in a full gym at Cuyahoga Community College during an election night rally in Cleveland, Ohio on Tuesday March, 8, 2016. (Photo by Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - At Cuyahoga Community College, Clinton supporters pledge allegiance at former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's election night rally in Cleveland, Ohio on Tuesday March, 8, 2016. (Photo by Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
An attendee waits for Hillary Clinton, former Secretary of State and 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, not pictured, during a campaign event in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S., on Tuesday, March 8, 2016. Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont and 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, scored an upset win over Clinton in the Michigan Democratic primary, overcoming the double-digit lead she held in polls ahead of the vote and proving he can win in a diverse industrial state. Photographer: Ty Wright/Bloomberg via Getty Images
CLEVELAND, OH - Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks to a gym full of supporters at Cuyahoga Community College during an election night rally in Cleveland, Ohio on Tuesday March, 8, 2016. (Photo by Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - MARCH 8: Democratic Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton speaks at the Recreation Center on the campus of the Cuyahoga Community College, March 8, 2016, in Cleveland, Ohio. Clinton is campaigning in Ohio ahead of the primary on March 15. (Photo by J.D. Pooley/Getty Images)
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They asked her campaign to respond by Friday.

"Secretary Clinton's mischaracterization of the Reagan Administration was deeply hurtful, especially to those of us who advocated for our dying loved ones during that time," longtime activist Peter Staley — who was featured in the Oscar-nominated documentary, "How to Survive a Plague," said in a statement on Tuesday. "But now we have an opportunity to challenge all of the presidential candidates to publicly announce their commitments to end the AIDS epidemic in the U.S."

The letter says Clinton's comments about Reagan "created an opportunity to bring HIV/AIDS to the forefront of the conversation during this campaign season."

While the letter makes it clear that Clinton's comments did not sit well with those who've lost loved ones to epidemic, it also makes a point of calling Clinton a staunch supporter of the fight against the virus.

"We know that your longer-term political record reflects a true commitment to the HIV/AIDS response and to universal access to affordable health care The Clinton Foundation has dedicated many resources and played a crucial role in many milestones," the letter said.

Clinton praised Nancy Reagan's "effective, low-key advocacy" to fight AIDS while speaking to MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell about before the former first lady's funeral in Simi Valley, California.

See photos from Nancy Reagan's funeral

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Activists demand Hillary Clinton end AIDS epidemic by 2025 after Reagan gaffe
The casket of US former First Lady Nancy Reagan is carried to her funeral service on March 11, 2016, at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California. AFP PHOTO/FREDERIC J. BROWN / AFP / FREDERIC J. BROWN (Photo credit should read FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)
The casket carrying Nancy Reagan arrives for the funeral service at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, Friday, March 11, 2016 in Simi Valley, Calif. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
A security officer stands guard before the funeral service for Nancy Reagan at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, Friday, March 11, 2016 in Simi Valley, Calif. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger arrives for the funeral service for Nancy Reagan at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, Friday, March 11, 2016 in Simi Valley, Calif. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Former President George W. Bush, left, and Hillary Clinton arrive at the funeral service for Nancy Reagan at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, Friday, March 11, 2016 in Simi Valley, Calif. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
SIMI VALLEY CA MARCH 11: Actor Tom Selleck arrives for funeral services being held for former first lady Nancy Reagan at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library March 11, 2016 in Simi Valley. Mrs Reagan will be buried next to her husband on the property. (Photo by Irfan Khan-Pool/Getty Images)
SIMI VALLEY CA MARCH 11: Larry King and his wife Shawn King arrive for funeral services being held for former first lady Nancy Reagan at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library March 11, 2016 in Simi Valley. Mrs Reagan will be buried next to her husband on the property. (Photo by Irfan Khan-Pool/Getty Images)
SIMI VALLEY, CA MARCH 11: First lady Michelle Obama, center, arrives with former President George Bush and his wife, Laura Bush, right, and Calif. Gov. Jerry Brown and his wife, Anne Gust, left, for funeral services being held for former first lady Nancy Reagan at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library March 11, 2016 in Simi Valley, California. Mrs. Reagan will be buried next to her husband on the property. (Photo by Irfan Khan-Pool/Getty Images)
The Reverend Stuart A. Kenworthy (R) watches as the casket of US former First Lady Nancy Reagan is carried to her funeral service on March 11, 2016, at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California. AFP PHOTO/FREDERIC J. BROWN / AFP / FREDERIC J. BROWN (Photo credit should read FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)
Former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney speaks during the funeral service for Nancy Reagan at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, Friday, March 11, 2016 in Simi Valley, Calif. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Opera singer Ana Maria Martinez sings Ave Maria during the funeral service for Nancy Reagan at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, Friday, March 11, 2016 in Simi Valley, Calif. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Diane Sawyer speaks during the funeral service for Nancy Reagan at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, Friday, March 11, 2016 in Simi Valley, Calif. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
The Santa Susana High School Choir sings during funeral services, as US former First Lady Nancy Reagan is laid to rest next to her husband, former US President Ronald Reagan, on March 11, 2016, at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California. AFP PHOTO/FREDERIC J. BROWN / AFP / FREDERIC J. BROWN (Photo credit should read FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)
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"It may be hard for your viewers to remember how difficult it was for people to talk about HIV/AIDS back in the 1980s. And because of both President and Mrs. Reagan — in particular, Mrs. Reagan — we started a national conversation when, before, no one would talk about it, no one wanted to do anything about it. And that too is something that I really appreciate, with her very effective, low-key advocacy, but it penetrated the public conscience, and people began to say 'Hey, we have to do something about this too.'"

Both Ronald and Nancy Reagan have been widely criticized for ignoring the AIDS epidemic, which started during Reagan's second year in office. Reagan didn't even mention the word AIDS publicly until late into his second term. By then scores of people were infected with and dying from the virus, among them Reagans' close friend, actor Rock Hudson, on whom Nancy reportedly turned her back when he asked for help to secure treatment.

When asked by a reporter about a horrifying new disease called AIDS that was ravaging the gay community in October of 1982, Reagan's press secretary, Larry Speakes, replied, "I don't have it ... Do you?" The room erupted in laughter. At the time, more than 700 cases of AIDS were reported in the U.S. and more than 600 people died of the disease, according to amfAR.

Read original story Activists Demand Hillary Clinton End AIDS Epidemic by 2025 After Reagan Gaffe At TheWrap

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