The National Museum of American Diplomacy was pleased to host a panel discussion that explored how U.S. Government has approached HIV/AIDS as both a humanitarian and a national security issue for more than 30 years. From the emergence of HIV/AIDS during the Reagan Administration to today, the three panelists surveyed the U.S. diplomatic response to the epidemic.
Dr. Alexander Poster of the Office of the Historian is the editor of the recent “Foreign Relations of the United States” volume that focuses on the Reagan years. He has a particular interest in U.S. disaster relief. Dr. Angeli Achrekar of the Office of the U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator and Health Diplomacy has long experience in global public health and has been involved in the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief for more than a decade. Kathryn Speckart is NMAD’s former associate curator. She leads efforts to collect and interpret artifacts of diplomatic history.
Dr. Poster took the audience back to the early 1980s when a mysterious and fatal new disease appeared in the United States. As the disease and social concern spread, the Reagan Administration and the State Department responded to it as a late Cold War foreign policy issue.
Dr. Achrekar then picked up the story, surveying the story of the U.S. Government’s mammoth effort to slow the epidemic. At one point HIV/AIDS was killing up to 1 in 3 villagers in some parts of Africa. It was a humanitarian and national security issue for the United States. The disease devastated communities and threatened the political, social, and economic stability of many countries. She focused in particular on the President’s Emergency Fund for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) which just observed its 15th anniversary.
Kathryn Speckart then showcased some of the HIV/AIDS objects in our collection.