The AIDS Crisis: LGBT History Month
There are two significant events in my early childhood that influenced and negatively affected me growing up gay. 1. The Aids Crisis. 2. Section 28.
In the mid-1980s there was an intense media focus on AIDS; a new disease that was terrifying and had no cure. It was known as the ‘gay disease’.
The AIDS crisis dominated the 1980s for the LGBT community. I remember it being talked about on the TV and when it hit the headlines of newspapers.
People were frightened. Terrified. Scared.
AIDS In The UK
AIDS first came to the UK public attention when, in 1981, the first UK case was recorded. A 49-year-old man was admitted to Brompton Hospital in London suffering from PCP (Pneumocystis Carinii Pneumonia). This often affects people with HIV and AIDS. He died ten days later.
In 1982 Terry Higgins died of AIDS in St. Thomas’ Hospital. His partner Rupert Whittaker, Martyn Butler and friends set up the Terry Higgins Trust (which became the Terrence Higgins Trust), the UK’s first AIDS charity.
At this time, there was a real lack of political, media and service support for people living with HIV/AIDS.
Community activism and support rose to meet the need. Lesbians and bi women provided critical support to gay and bi men during this time.
Act Up was the key campaigning group (based in the US) focused on challenging the lack of political and health support for people living with HIV/AIDS.
Amid the AIDS crisis (in 1983) men who have sex with men were asked not to donate to UK blood banks.
The Department of Health lifted the lifetime ban on gay and bi men donating blood in 2011. There was a 12-month celibacy clause still in place in order for men who have sex with men to be eligible to donate.
In 2017 the Department of Health reduced the deferral period for gay and bi men wishing to donate blood from 12 months to three months.
A Lasting Legacy Of Stigma and Misunderstanding
The AIDS epidemic (and media coverage of this) and Section 28 created misunderstandings and a terrified nation.
The information provided by the government and the media about AIDS and HIV was inaccurate and as a result, homophobia escalated dramatically at this time, with many LGBT people hiding away in fear.
The public information campaigns in the 1980s have left a legacy of misunderstanding. The impact of the AIDS crisis was still felt nationwide when I was a teenager and is still felt by LGBTQ people of all ages today.
More recently, it is great to see the conversation changing around HIV and AIDS. Accurate education and information is now starting to reach the general public through social media, the tireless work of charities and courageous celebrities that are all working to break the stigma of HIV and AIDS.
Let’s not forget. Yes, progress has been made. BUT there is still work to be done here to ensure everyone living with HIV or AIDS feels safe and supported to do everything they want to do in life, without fear.
With Thanks To:
Queer: A History by M.J Barker and J. Scheele
About Gina Battye
Gina Battye is a world-renowned LGBT+ Inclusion, Psychological Safety and Intersectionality Consultant and Trainer for Multinational Corporations, Fortune 500s, TV, Film and the Global Press.
As featured in: Sky News, BBC Radio, Forbes, Psychologies, Cosmopolitan.
To find out more about working with Gina on LGBT inclusion in your organisation, click here: https://www.ginabattye.com/lgbt-services
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