HIV & AIDS in Britain – A brief history.


1981 First case of Aids reported in UK in December, seven months after first cases in California and New York. At first confined to gay men, it is called the gay plague or Gay-Related Immune Deficiency.

1982 Terry Higgins, a Hansard reporter and barman, dies; his friends establish the Terrence Higgins Trust as an educational and counselling charity.

1983 Haemophiliacs and recipients of blood transfusions found to be infected. Media hysteria begins, accompanied by a rise in homophobia and the thought that there are "innocent" and "guilty" victims.

1984 HIV virus is isolated.

1985 The HIV test widely available. The support group Body Positive established. 275 cases of Aids reported by the end of the year. Royal College of Nursing predicts 1m infections by 1991.

1986 The government sets up a cabinet committee and announces a £20m education and care package.

1987 Leaflets go to 23m homes, followed by the Don’t Die of Ignorance television campaigns. A needle exchange for drug users opens in Scotland.

1988 Section 28 of the Local Government Act forbids the positive promotion of homosexuality in schools. The residential centre London Lighthouse opens.

1989 Cabinet committee disbands, its job seemingly done. Princess Diana takes up the challenge.

1990 Compensation awarded to haemophiliacs and dependents.

1991 HIV comes to EastEnders; Freddie Mercury dies.

1993 The Aids toll reaches 7,000, with one-sixth of these believed to be from heterosexual intercourse. A long-term study of AZT, the "magic bullet" drug, shows it to be only marginally effective.

1996 Combination therapy of protease inhibitor drugs becomes the first long-term beneficial treatment for HIV, greatly extending life expectancy for many.

1999 Number of new heterosexually acquired HIV cases surpasses the figure for homosexual transmission.

2000 The London Lighthouse merges with the Terrence Higgins Trust, an apparent sign of diminishing needs and funding.

2002 Between 1996 and 2002, the number of newly diagnosed HIV cases has more than doubled, from 2,685 to 5,847. A switch begins to a wider education about all sexually transmitted infections.

2007 Only one-quarter of 1,246 haemophiliacs infected with HIV are still alive; an independent inquiry will find in favour of more adequate compensation.

2010 As of June, there have been 26,262 diagnoses of Aids in the UK; 90,000 people are living with HIV, while thousands more are believed unaware of positive status. SG

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