Let us take you on a journey through history and look through an archive of news articles, moments and audiovisual experiences dedicated to the remembrance of a generation that helped define our rights. ‘Under Attack’ is the first chapter of this journey and slowly you will see a timeline unfold to the great advances we’ve made today
*Content warning: illness, death and discrimination of people living with HIV and AIDS
ENTER THE DIGITAL ARCHIVE
This archive is largely compiled from personal collections donated to 56 Dean Street from individual nurses and doctors that were involved with the care of HIV patients from the early to mid 80’s.
*Photo Credit: Gideon Mandel
Go though this archive collection of Articles, Videos and interviews by Leigh Chislett.
In the last 35 years HIV care and treatment has changed almost beyond recognition and society’s attitude to HIV has significantly changed since it first appeared in the UK in the early 1980s. We now have rapid testing and access to very effective treatments, PrEP and PEP, but it wasn’t always like that. This is a record of how the “AIDS Crisis” was confronted by the people it affected. HIV at this time disproportionately affected gay men and they campaigned in an atmosphere of fear and rampant homophobia. Patients willingly tried new and untested treatments from egg white mixed in a kitchen sink, to unscrupulous people who sold snake oil. When AZT was first used in late 1986, for some the side effects were intolerable but they continued and we learnt more about the virus and what could defeat it. Homosexuality had only been partially decriminalised in 1967, and for many of the people we cared for, it was very fresh in their memories. Many remember living in fear of their homosexuality being “found out”. For some it could mean the loss of their career, home and families. So when faced with what was then still a terminal illness, they wanted to make a difference. So when I am occasionally asked, “why do you keep talking about those days, it’s all in the past.” My answer is because they fought for your rights, your treatment and they campaigned for equality. Many never lived to see the age of consent brought in line with heterosexuals, marriage equality and protection in the law. We owe them a great debt and our respect and admiration. It was my privilege to work with patients, their partners and friends and I hope that as a community, they are not forgotten.
Theresa Burns, HIV Nurse (co-creator of AIDS chronicles)
There was another pandemic 40 years ago. There are some huge differences: HIV killed nearly everyone who got it, but only after several years of anxiety and ill health. COVID kills a small minority, very quickly. Instead of targeting the elderly, HIV killed young people (the average age of death was 37) who were already marginalised because they were gay, or drug users, or had haemophilia or were simply African. The media made victims of anyone who had AIDS. For no other disease would secret journalists turn up on wards with cameras hidden in a bunch of flowers. The attitude to people with COVID has been mercifully benign
Dr Matthew Helbert (co-creator of AIDS chronicles)