The shadow of AIDS

Listen to Ken and Helen reflect on the AIDS crisis in the 1980s and the government response.



The way the Conservative Party advertised the AIDS crisis and the way they labelled it as, you know, as if it was almost driven by evil homosexuality. Plus, there were all the adverts which pretty much told you if you were gay, you were going to die. And that was the kind of take away from all the AIDS iceberg adverts and the tombstone – I remember that fell over! And you know, it scared the daylights out of me, even to the point of making me even less likely to have sex or find out about sexuality or anything like that. And then when I finally did realise that I was gay, it was so traumatic because I still was associating being gay with an inevitable death sentence, you know. And that was the messaging that we were getting, you know. It wasn’t exactly supportive.



It was all about the language of gay plague and danger. And there was a strange advertisement on television which involved the actor John Hurt, with a very sinister sounding voiceover, and a falling tombstone with AIDS marked on it. But it was – again, you weren’t going learn anything from watching the advert. And then a leaflet came through the door. My parents, I think, were really cross that there was a leaflet campaign, which again didn’t really say very much about how you might catch AIDS, or any information really. I seem to remember there was talk of condoms. But it didn’t really say anything about my life or, you know, increase anyone’s level of knowledge about what was going on. It was just all very fearful and sinister and secretive and dark. There was a horrible – I think he was the Manchester police commissioner, I think it was James Anderton, and he talked about homosexuals swimming in a cesspool of their own creation. You know, there was that sort of language. He was, he was a fundamentalist Christian and, you know, it came from a very judgey place on religious terms.