Ever since the emergence of AIDS in the early 1980s, our nation has been struggling to cope with this terrible disease. But the widespread fear stirred by the AIDS crisis has made the careful development of public policy difficult. There have been unwise calls for the curtailment of individual rights and liberties, and people with AIDS have often faced irrational discrimination -- job firings, exclusions from school, and denials of access to health care. .
The beginning of the AIDS epidemic focused on gay men because the initial cases found and brought to the CDC's attention were gay men. When the first cases were reported, the disease was referred to as "gay cancer" and then "gay-related immune deficiency" (GRID). In the 1980s, AIDS was a defining issue for lesbian and gay communities because the crisis was "used to take away existing social and civil rights from gay people" .
Once AIDS became a political issue, groups like AIDS Campaign Trust (ACT) were formed. As Schulman states in one of her commentaries, "it became increasingly clear that the public would not accept AIDS as a health crisis, but was determined to view it as representative of sexual and political threats to cultural values posed by gay people" A large number of politicians were not willing to support gay civil rights; but, once AIDS became a public health issue instead of just a gay one, they were supportive. Many groups tried to keep the focus on education, but that education seemed to focus on risks of gay, male sex. The education excluded risks of vaginal intercourse and only focused on anal intercourse and fellatio. .
The Watts legislation is the first measure introduced in Congress to broadly implement President George W. Bush's initiative on government-funded religion, including the provisions that would allow the federal government to provide contracts and grants to religious organizations that discriminate against others based on religion.