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Penn: Milk would've helped in AIDS crisis

Nov. 21, 2008 at 9:49 AM
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NEW YORK, Nov. 21 (UPI) -- U.S. actor Sean Penn says he thinks gay activist Harvey Milk would have saved lives by drawing attention to the AIDS epidemic had he not been slain in 1978.

Penn, who plays the late San Francisco city supervisor in the new movie "Milk," told reporters in New York this week that he thinks the real-life Milk would have campaigned to get former U.S. President Ronald Reagan to do more to prevent the spread of AIDS and help those suffering from the disease when the number of AIDS cases were on the rise in the 1980s.

"I think less people would've died of AIDS. I think Ronald Reagan would've been forced to address it and it was a tragic loss," Penn replied when asked how he thinks the world might have been a different place if Milk wasn't killed three decades ago by former fellow city supervisor Dan White, who tried unsuccessfully to get his job back after he resigned his post.

"(Milk) wouldn't have stood quietly. He was a leader and he happened to be focused on the gay movement," Penn continued. "And because the impression was that (AIDS) was initially -- popularly the notion was that this was a gay disease and certainly huge numbers of homosexuals died related to it and all that -- I think he would've advanced that argument a lot sooner. I think people are dead because he died too soon."

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