Nancy Reagan will be laid to rest this week after passing away at the age of 94 on Sunday. Wife to Ronald Reagan, the nation’s 40th president, the former First Lady is often remembered for her start in Hollywood, her glamorous time in the White House, and her role as her husband’s trusted confidante and protector. But the Reagans also played a critical role in the HIV/AIDS crisis that ravaged the United States in the 1980s.
Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, or AIDS, originated in the Democratic Republic of Congo around 1920, according to Avert, a charity on the forefront of AIDS activism and treatment since the disease began to spread in the 1980s. While only 121 deaths from AIDS were reported in 1981, the number of cases skyrocketed to 100,000 in the U.S. by 1989.