"As I recall, from 1984 onward — and bear in mind that the AIDS virus was not identified until 1982 — every Reagan budget contained a large sum of money specifically earmarked for AIDS," says Peter Robinson, a former Reagan speechwriter and author of How Ronald Reagan Changed My Life. "Now, people will argue that it wasn't enough," Robinson adds. "But, of course, that's the kind of argument that takes place over every item in the federal budget. Nevertheless, the notion that he was somehow callous or had a cruel or cynical attitude towards homosexuals or AIDS victims is just ridiculous."
In February 1986, President Reagan's blueprint for the next fiscal year stated: "[T]his budget provides funds for maintaining — and in some cases expanding — high priority programs in crucial areas of national interest…including drug enforcement, AIDS research, the space program, nonmilitary research and national security." Reagan's budget message added that AIDS "remains the highest public health priority of the Department of Health and Human Services."
Precise budget requests are difficult to calculate, as online records from the 1980s are spotty. Nevertheless, New York University's archived, hard copies of budget documents from fiscal year 1984 through FY 1989 show that Reagan proposed at least $2.79 billion for AIDS research, education, and treatment. In a Congressional Research Service study titled AIDS Funding for Federal Government Programs: FY1981-FY1999, author Judith Johnson found that overall, the federal government spent $5.727 billion on AIDS under Ronald Reagan. This higher number reflects President Reagan's proposals as well as additional expenditures approved by Congress that he later signed.