May 9, 1988.
On this day, IUPUI saw the opening of three days of public hearings of the President's Commission on the HIV Epidemic. Established by executive order in 1987 by President Ronald Reagan, the commission was a much-publicized attempt to find ways to combat the spread of HIV/AIDS, the disease then killing thousands of Americans and others around the world, many of them gay men. The commission gathered in the Conference Center on the IUPUI campus to hear expert testimony and confer.
While appointed to address a major public-health crisis, partisan and cultural politics swirled around the commission as HIV/AIDS was seen as the disease of homosexual men. One of the commission's members was an openly gay man, a geneticist from New York City. His presence on the board prompted verbal attacks from cultural conservatives. Several commission members resigned in the uproar and confusion. With a new chairman, retired Navy admiral James D. Watkins, in charge, the body refocused on science and addressing the ways AIDS spread among intravenous drug users and other populations.
Shortly after the meetings in Indianapolis, the Watkins commission issued its final report with a long list of recommendations to address public-health issues associated with HIV infection, including the care of HIV-infected persons and efforts to stem the spread of infection by the sharing of needles. It also recommended anti-discrimination efforts on behalf of those with AIDS and those who were HIV-positive.
With new assistance from the federal government to coordinate AIDS research, IUPUI and other medical research institutions redoubled their efforts to address the disease.
To learn how IUPUI developed policies and plans to address HIV/AIDS, consult records in IUPUI Special Collections and Archives firstname.lastname@example.org.