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New short film shows Reagan administration's slow response to AIDS epidemic

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Harry Hampel/ullstein bild via Getty Images

To commemorate World AIDS Day, filmmaker Scott Calonico released a short film on Tuesday that details how President Ronald Reagan’s administration failed to act in the face of a growing epidemic.

When AIDS Was Funny highlights several audio clips from White House press briefings in 1982, 1983, and 1984. In each briefing, reporter Lester Kinsolving presents press secretary Larry Speakes with information about AIDS and asks for an official White House response, only to be met with jokes from both Speakes and his fellow reporters. Calonico juxtaposes these jokes with contemporaneous photos of AIDS patients at Seattle’s Bailey-Boushay House and a running count of the AIDS death toll.

Reagan isn’t shown in the short film, but the president infamously did not even say “AIDS” in public until 1985, after thousands of Americans had lost their lives.

Watch the full video below, which first premiered over at Vanity Fair.