Angels in America Timeline: Part Two


The script for Angels in America draws heavily from crucial junctures in World history. To help guide you through some of the references made in Angels in America, we have constructed a timeline - this week's installment is the second half, 1980 C.E - 1990 C.E.

1980 -
A mysterious constellation of diseases in forty-one different patients in discovered. The patients are all gay men living in New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta publishes a report on the outbreaks of Kaposi’s sarcoma (KS) and pneumocystic carinii pneumonia (PCP). The epidemic is later referred to as Gay Cancer or GRID (Gay-Related Immune Deficiency).

Jan 1981 - Ronald Wilson Reagan is inaugurated as the 40th President of the United States. The GOP gains control of the Senate.

March 1981 - Ronald Reagan is shot 60 days into his first term. Although seriously wounded, he becomes the first U.S. President to be shot and survive. He leaves the hospital 21 days later.

July 1981 - PCP is discovered among intravenous drug users in New York City; most of the patients are heterosexual.

Jan-Feb 1982 - In several cases across the United States, infected Factor III blood is identified as the cause of PCP cases in hemophiliacs.

July 27, 1982 -  The CDC in Atlanta officially designates the epidemic with a sexually-neutral term: AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome). A year and a half after its discovery, only $1 million has been spent on research, compared to $9 million spent within a month of the 1976 outbreak of Legionnaire’s Disease, which killed 29 people. 634 cases of AIDS have been diagnosed, with 260 deaths reported.

March 3, 1983 - Larry Kramer’s article on AIDS epidemic, “1,112 and Counting” is published by the New York Native. It lambastes political leaders, government agencies, mainstream media and the gay community for lack of action against AIDS. 485 deaths have been reported.

May 6, 1983 - Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) states that AIDS can be acquired through normal household contact.

May 7, 1983 - Dr. Fauci refutes his statement of the previous day.

May 18, 1983 - Using Dr. Fauci’s May 6 statement to buttress his argument, Pat Buchanan publishes a vitriolic op-ed piece describing AIDS as “the wrath of God:” “The poor homosexuals—they have declared war on nature, and now nature is exacting an awful retribution.”

June 1983 - Researchers at France’s Pasteur Institute discover a retrovirus –later named the Human Immuno-deficiency Virus (HIV) – they believe to be the cause of AIDS. 1,641 cases, and 644 deaths, have been reported.

Sept 1983 - President Reagan’s budget proposes a $300,000 cut in AIDS funding for the coming year. Dr. Robert Gallo of the National Cancer Institute disputes the Pasteur Institute’s discovery of the AIDS virus. 3,515 cases, and 1,506 deaths, reported.

Nov 1984 - Ronald Reagan is re-elected President in a landslide. More than 7,000 cases of AIDS have been reported.

Mar 11, 1985 - Mikhail Gorbachev takes power in the Soviet Union following the death of Konstantin Chernenko. Margaret Thatcher says, “We like Mr. Gorbachev. We can do business with him.” Gorbachev begins his policies on Glasnost [“new openness”] and Perestroika [“rebuilding”]. AIDS has now been reported on every populated continent of the earth. U.S. cases surpass 9,000, with 4,300 deaths.

July 12, 1985 - Rock Hudson collapses in a Paris hospital while undergoing experimental treatment for AIDS. The news of his diagnosis creates the first real mobilization against the disease. The Reagan Administration responds by increasing AIDS funding to $100 million.

Sept 1985 - Four years after the outbreak of the epidemic, Ronald Reagan publicly utters the word “AIDS” for the first time, although he does not make a statement on the issue itself. More than 12,000 cases have been reported in the U.S., with nearly 6,000 deaths.

Oct 1985 - An Antarctic research team confirms a thirty percent depletion in the ozone layer over an area the size of the United States.

Oct 2, 1985 - Actor Rock Hudson dies from complications of AIDS at UCLA Medical Center.

Jan 23, 1986 - Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday celebrated as national holiday for the first time.

Early 1986 - The pharmaceutical company Burroughs Wellcome and the NIH begin testing of the drug AZT to test it efficacy against AIDS. 282 gay men are chosen for the test.

June 23, 1986 - Roy Cohn is disbarred as a lawyer in New York state for “unethical,” “unprofessional,” and “particularly reprehensible” conduct. He reportedly cries when receiving the news.

Aug 2, 1986 - Roy Cohn dies from complications of AIDS at the NIH, Bethesda, Maryland. For narrative reasons, Tony Kushner moved the dates of Roy Cohn’s disbarment and death forward in time.

August 1986 - The existence of a secret White House project selling arms to the Islamist government of Iran, in order to fund operations against the Communist government of Nicaragua, is discovered.

Oct 1986 - Surgeon General C. Everett Koop encourages AIDS education in public schools. There are 27,000 diagnosed cases of AIDS.

Mar 1987 - ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) is founded at a public meeting organized by Larry Kramer. In the following months, the group stages a series of confrontative demonstrations at Wall Street and other locations to shock the public into awareness of AIDS.

May 31, 1987 - President Ronald Reagan makes his first speech on AIDS. There are now 36,058 diagnosed cases and 20,849 deaths.

Oct 1987 - A fifty percent depletion in the ozone layer over Antarctica is recorded.

1989-90 - A huge rise in incidents of anti-gay violence is reported. By the end of 1990, 7,000 cases have been documented. The activist group Queer Nation is founded to aggressively call attention to the rise in violence.

Pictured: President Ronald Reagan

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