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Together We Will End AIDS

Entitled Together we will end AIDS, the new UNAIDS report contains the latest data on numbers of new HIV infections, numbers of people receiving antiretroviral treatment, AIDS-related deaths and HIV among children. It highlights new scientific opportunities and social progress which are bringing the world closer to UNAIDS vision of zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths.

The report also gives an overview of international and domestic HIV investments and the need for greater value for money and sustainability.

Calling for global solidarity and shared responsibility, the UNAIDS report contains commentaries from global and community leaders as well as people living with and affected by HIV.

Download here

Link to UNAIDS Campaign 

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Even without a cure, the end of the AIDS pandemic is in sight

A very bold statement to make in the run up to AIDS 2012, none the less, this is the view of Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infections Diseases (NIAID )

NIAID director Dr. Anthony Fauci addressing the United Nations General Assembly special session on HIV/AIDS on 10June 2008.

Dr. Fauci was appointed Director of NIAID in 1984. He oversees an extensive research portfolio of basic and applied research to prevent, diagnose, and treat infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections, influenza, tuberculosis, malaria and illness from potential agents of bioterrorism. NIAID also supports research on transplantation and immune-related illnesses, including autoimmune disorders, asthma and allergies.  Dr. Fauci serves as one of the key advisors to the White House and Department of Health and Human Services on global AIDS issues, and on initiatives to bolster medical and public health preparedness against emerging infectious disease threats such as pandemic influenza.

Dr. Fauci has made many contributions to basic and clinical research on the pathogenesis and treatment of immune-mediated and infectious diseases. He has pioneered the field of human immunoregulation by making a number of basic scientific observations that serve as the basis for current understanding of the regulation of the human immune response. In addition, Dr. Fauci is widely recognized for delineating the precise mechanisms whereby immunosuppressive agents modulate the human immune response. He has developed effective therapies for formerly fatal inflammatory and immune-mediated diseases such as polyarteritis nodosa, Wegener’s granulomatosis, and lymphomatoid granulomatosis. A 1985 Stanford University Arthritis Center Survey of the American Rheumatism Association membership ranked the work of Dr. Fauci on the treatment of polyarteritis nodosa and Wegener’s granulomatosis as one of the most important advances in patient management in rheumatology over the previous 20 years.

AN END TO NEW INFECTIONS?

Three decades into the AIDS pandemic an end to new infections is in sight, according to Dr. Fauci.

“We don’t even know if a cure is possible. What we know is it is possible that we can end this pandemic even without a cure,”

Fauci told AFP in an interview ahead of the International AIDS conference 22nd -27th July in Washington DC, America.

Some 34 million people around the world are living with human immunodeficiency virus, which has killed 25 million since it first emerged in the 1980s.

The theme of this conference, which is held every two years, is “Turning the Tide Together,” and is based on experts sharing knowledge of the latest advances and how to best implement them in order to halt new cases of HIV/AIDS.

“We have good and effective treatments but we have to keep people on the treatments indefinitely in order to keep them well,” said Dr. Fauci, referring to antiretroviral drugs which have transformed a deadly disease into a manageable condition.

“When you have a very marked diminution of the number of new infections then you reach what we call and AIDS-free generation.”

Dr. Fauci said he did not expect any staggering breakthroughs to be announced at the conference, but that the gain would come though collaborating on ideas to speed progress by using the tools that practitioners have already at hand.

Otherwise, if progress continues at the present rate of reducing new infections worldwide by about 1.5 percent per year, the goal becomes too distant, he said.

Recent studies that tested antiretroviral drugs in healthy people as a way to prevent getting HIV through sex with infected partners have shown some promise, though getting people to take their medication daily had proven a challenge.

“The important thing is you have to take your medication,” Fauci said, noting that average HIV risk reduction in a study of men who have sex with men was just 44 percent.

The approach of treating healthy people with antiretrovirals is known as pre-exposure prophylaxis, and “is not for everyone,” Fauci said. “We have to selectively use it.”

The US Food and Drug Administration on Monday approved the first pill for HIV prevention, Truvada, despite concerns by some in the health care community that it could encourage drug resistance and risky sex.

Novel ways to boost testing are also good news, particularly with the recent US approval of the first at-home HIV test.

“It is so important in the quest to ending the AIDS pandemic to get as many people tested as possible. You can link them to care and get them on treatment. Anything that makes that goal easier would be an important advance.”

As far as an AIDS vaccine, Fauci said researchers have made “good progress” but “still have a long way to go.”

Experts are examining a trial done in Thailand that showed in 2009 modest efficacy of just over 30 percent, but is still considered a breakthrough and offers clues for future study into why some were helped and others were not.

Dr. Fauci also said he did not expect much concern to be raised over upcoming reports of the extent of drug resistance to antiretrovirals.

“People may think I am taking it lightly but quite frankly it is not a serious problem,” Fauci said.

He added that overall, AIDS research is “going well” even though “funding is restricted right now.”

And he expressed pride in the United States’ President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), “which has really transformed how you can get people in low income countries to get on treatment care and prevention.”

The United States provides almost half the world’s funding for international HIV assistance, according to UNAIDS.

The International AIDS Conference is returning to the United States after more than two decades away due to a ban on travel and immigration by people with HIV that was lifted in 2008 and signed into law in 2009.

Fauci called those restrictive laws “unfortunate” and “embarrassing.”

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A History of HIV & AIDS – 1996

As we prepare to enter our 25th year, we are reflecting on the global HIV events from the last three decades.  HIV has swept across the globe touching communities on every continent.  Here’s an introduction to some of the key moments in the early global history of HIV.  Catch up on the story using the ‘Recent Posts’ link to the right.

UNAIDS and the World Health Organization (WHO) estimated in 1996 that more than 4.6 million people had died from AIDS since the beginning of the epidemic and that over 20.1 million were then living with the virus that leads to AIDS. The majority of those infected (over 15 million) lived in sub-Saharan Africa, followed by more than 31.8 million in Asia, 1 million in Latin America and the Caribbean and about 1.5 million in North America and Western and Central Europe.

On 1 January 1996, The UN aids agency, UNAids, is established.  UNAids – the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS opened for business. This was 15 years after the first published report of AIDS cases, 15 years during which most of the world’s leaders, in all sectors of society, had displayed a staggering indifference to the growing challenge of this new epidemic.

Tommy Morrison in February, 2007

In February, the heavyweight boxer Tommy Morrison was identified as HIV positive after being tested prior to a fight.  A few days before a scheduled fight against Arthur Weathers, Morrison tested positive on a mandatory HIV test performed by the Nevada Athletic Commission.  Morrison’s personal physician administered a confirmatory test, which was also positive.  Nevada cancelled the fight and placed Morrison on indefinite suspension.

At a news conference, a “reflective” Morrison said that he had contracted HIV because of a “very permissive, fast, reckless lifestyle’ that involved unprotected sex with multiple partners.”  Morrison also said that he once thought HIV was a danger only to drug addicts and homosexuals, but that his infection was evidence that HIV “does not discriminate.”  Morrison stated that he would never fight again but later in 1996, he announced that he wished to make a comeback with one more bout, the proceeds of which would benefit his newly created KnockOut Aids Foundation.

To treat his HIV infection, Morrison told the New York Daily News in 2001, he took antiretroviral medication, which reduced his viral load to low levels and according to his promoter, saved his life.

Beginning in 2006, Morrison launched a comeback bid, alleging that his positive HIV tests had been false positives or that he was a victim of a plot by a rival boxer.  The Nevada boxing commission’s medical advisory board reviewed Morrison’s status and concluded that the HIV positive results were “ironclad and unequivocal.”  The commission’s Keith Kizer stated, “I hope he’s HIV negative, I really do, but it doesn’t seem likely…We’ll wait and see what happens. He said he’s been tested several times in recent years, but (we’ll ask) what happened from 1996 and 2002, the years he won’t talk about.”  Morrison said he tried to get a copy of the original test results. “We’ve asked, but they can’t come up with it,” he said. “I don’t think it ever existed.”  USA Today reported that “Goodman said that’s nonsense: ‘All Mr. Morrison has to do is contact the laboratory, and they would immediately release the results to him.’

It’s very interesting reading, for more on Tommy Morrison, follow these links:

In May the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the first ‘home sampling’ system of HIV testing.

Meanwhile in China it was estimated that the number of AIDS cases could be as high as 100,000. Two thirds of the reported AIDS cases had occurred in the southern province of Yunnan, where the use of heroin and the sharing of needles had helped the spread of HIV.

In the USA there had been a cumulative total of 81,500 AIDS cases in New York.

New outbreaks of HIV infection were erupting in Eastern Europe, the former Soviet Union, India, Vietnam, Cambodia, China and elsewhere.

The International Aids Vaccine Initiative set up to jumpstart the search for an effective vaccine.

BREAKTHROUGH IN HIV / AIDS TREATMENT

The first major breakthrough in the treatment of HIV comes in 1996, with the introduction of protease inhibitors as part of antiretroviral combination therapies.

Protease Inhibitors stop HIV replication by preventing the enzyme protease from cutting the virus into the shorter pieces that it needs to make copies of itself. Incomplete, defective copies are formed which can’t infect cells.

This new class of medicine means that viral loads drop, t-cells rise, and death rates plummet, even as it becomes clear that the new medications cannot “eradicate” HIV from the body and thus fall short of being a cure.  Alongside these tremendous advances, new HIV infections remain undiminished, and the drugs also prove difficult to take, cause serious side effects, and don’t work for everyone.

Robert Gallo, an American biomedical researcher, best known for his role in the discovery of HIV published his discovery that chemokines, a class of naturally occurring compounds, can block HIV and halt the progression of AIDS. This was heralded by Sciencemagazine as one of the top scientific breakthroughs within the same year of his publication.  The role chemokines play in controlling the progression of HIV infection has influenced thinking on how AIDS works against the human immune system and led to a class of drugs used to treat HIV, the chemokine antagonists or entry inhibitors.

Gallo’s team at the Institute of Human Virology maintain an ongoing program of scientific research and clinical care and treatment for people living with HIV/AIDS, treating more than 4,000 patients in Baltimore and 200,000 patients at institute-supported clinics in Africa and the Caribbean.  In July 2007, Gallo and his team were awarded a $15 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for research into a preventive vaccine for HIV/AIDS.


Just 12 months earlier, AIDS was considered a death sentence, and those seeking to treat it seldom uttered the words “AIDS” and “hope” in the same sentence.  However, in 1996 those terms have become inextricably linked in the minds and hearts of researchers and patients alike and while the new optimism must be tempered with numerous caveats, 1996 had ushered in a series of stunning breakthroughs, both in AIDS treatment and in basic research on HIV.

Protease inhibitors can now dramatically reduce HIV levels in the blood when taken with other antiviral compounds. At the same time, natural weapons in the immune system’s defences, polypeptide molecules called chemokine’s, have been unveiled as potent foes of HIV. This work offered new insight into the pathogenesis of HIV and may one day blossom into new treatments or even vaccines.

Read This: AIDS Research: New Hope in HIV Disease

These major breakthroughs resulted in a steep decline in the number of AIDS cases and deaths reported each year which gave hope to the many millions of people with HIV.  Less and less people with HIV were dying however, the number of infections continues to rise, and peaks at a new high from 2000, due in part to living healthy with HIV but also due to decreased education and awareness.

At the 11th International Aids Conference in Vancouver, excitement over the development of combination drug therapies is tempered by their extreme cost – estimated at $20,000 a year per patient.

Brazil introduces free combination therapy for HIV-positive citizens

At the end of the year UNAIDS estimated that during 1996 some three million people, mostly under the age of 25, had become newly infected with HIV, bringing to nearly 23 million the total number of infected people. In addition an estimated 6.4 million people – 5 million adults and 1.4 million children – had already died.

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A History of HIV & AIDS – 1995

As we prepare to enter our 25th year, we are reflecting on the global HIVevents from the last three decades.  HIV has swept across the globe touching communities on every continent.  Here’s an introduction to some of the key moments in the early global history of HIV.  Catch up on the story using the ‘Recent Posts’ link to the right.

By 1st January 1995, a cumulative total of a million cases of AIDS had been reported to the World Health Organisation Global Programme on AIDS.  Eighteen million adults and 1.5 million children were estimated to have been infected with HIV since the beginning of the epidemic.

AIDS had become the leading cause of death amongst all Americans aged 25 to 44.

Two research reports provided important new information about how HIV replicates in the body and how it affects the immune system.

The South African Ministry of Health announced that some 850,000 people – 2.1 percent of the 40 million population – were believed to be HIV positive. Among pregnant women the figure had reached 8 percent and was rising.

By the autumn of 1995, 7-8 million women of childbearing age were believed to have been infected with HIV.

By December 15th, the World Health Organisation had received reports of 1,291,810 cumulative cases of AIDS in adults and children from 193 countries or areas. The WHO estimated that the actual number of cases that had occurred was around 6 million. Eight countries in Africa had reported more than 20,000 cases.

Other organisations estimated that by the end of 1995, 9.2 million people worldwide had died from AIDS.

Worldwide during 1995, it was estimated that 4.7 million new HIV infections occurred. Of these, 2.5 million occurred in Southeast Asia and 1.9 million in sub-Saharan Africa. Approximately 500,000 children were born with HIV.

The WHO estimated that by the end of the century, 30 to 40 million people would have been affected by HIV.

British DJ and entertainer Kenny Everett dies from AIDS on 4 April 1995.

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A History of HIV & AIDS – 1993

As we prepare to enter our 25th year, we are reflecting on the global HIV events from the last three decades.  HIV has swept across the globe touching communities on every continent.  Here’s an introduction to some of the key moments in the early global history of HIV.  Catch up on the story using the ‘Recent Posts’ link to the right.

We focus on 1993 today.  During January, 116 new cases of AIDS were reported in the UK, bringing the cumulative total to 7,045. One in six of these new cases were acquired through heterosexual intercourse.

In March, the House of Representatives in the USA voted overwhelmingly to retain the ban on the entry into the country of HIV positive people.

In early April the Ministers of Health and Finance from 39 countries met in Riga, Latvia, and launched an initiative to contain the spread of HIV in Central and Eastern European countries.

On 7th April all French television networks broadcast ‘Tous contre le Sida’ (All against AIDS) simultaneously, a special 4-hour programme designed to heighten awareness about HIV/AIDS and to raise money. The estimated audience for the programme was 33 million. Some 32,000 cases of AIDS had been recorded in France, with 15 deaths each day, and an estimated 150,000 people were thought to be infected.

In Romania, the number of children infected with HIV had increased. There were an estimated 98,000 infected orphans.

China had reported one thousand cases of HIV infection, mostly in injecting drug users, but it was believed that this greatly understated the scale of the country’s HIV epidemic.

In South Africa, the National Health Department reported that the number of recorded HIV infections had grown by 60 percent in the previous two years and was expected to double in 1993. A survey of women attending health clinics indicated that nationally some 322,000 people were infected.

In mid-1993, it had been realised that HIV was also spreading rapidly in the Asia and Pacific regions, home to more than half the world’s population, where more than 700,000 people were already believed to be infected.

Official statistics for Brazil indicated that some 46,000 cases of AIDS had been recorded, but estimates put the actual number at anywhere between 450,000 and 3 million cases.  Two thirds of the known cases were in Sao Paulo state where AIDS was the leading cause of death of women aged 20-35.

Despite the overwhelming evidence and more importantly, the need that safer sex campaigns were needed, in 1994 In the UK, the Department of Health vetoed an AIDS campaign promoting safer sex and condoms which was already developed at a cost of £2m on the grounds that it was too explicit!

The campaign was developed by the Health Education Authority (a government funded body) who later in the year were banned by the Department of Health from distributing the book, ‘Your Pocket Guide to Sex’. It was aimed at 16 to 25 year olds, giving advice on contraception, HIV and safe sex. The media reacted hysterically, saying that it was encouraging young people to have sex, and the government panicked. They pulped the book and threatened to stop all of their AIDS and sexual health education programmes.

However, this author has just researched Amazon and found it’s available to buy online, here’s the link if you’re interested!

The World Bank reviewed its HIV and AIDS activities in Africa, and decided that AIDS should not dominate its agenda on population, health and nutrition issues.

In the UK the radio DJ and comedian Kenny Everett announced that he was HIV positive, as did Holly Johnson, former lead singer with the group Frankie goes to Hollywood.

During the summer, the AIDS Prevention Agency in Brussels, in collaboration with the European Union, launched a campaign whose central image was ‘the flying condom’.

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On World AIDS Day, 1st December, Benetton in collaboration with ACT UP Paris placed a giant condom (22 metres high and 3.5 wide) on the obelisk in Place de la Concorde in Central Paris in an effort to waken the world to the reality of the disease. A symbolic monument to HIV prevention, it appeared on the covers of newspapers worldwide.

At the end of 1993 the estimated number of AIDS cases worldwide was 2.5 million.

But hope was on the horizon, if only for some, a large European study on mother-to-child transmission showed that Caesarean section halved the rate of HIV transmission, something of hope to expectant mothers and demonstrated that progress was being made in the field of HIV research.

Research indicated that Thailand had reduced its rate of HIV transmission. This was largely due to action by the government, which had distributed condoms to brothels and insisted that they were used consistently.

In face of opposition to HIV prevention programs it seemed that hope was near, in Leicester LASS moves to new premises, our current home.  The Michael Wood Centre and establishes a ‘company limited by Guarantee’, and gain charitable status.

Following the dissolution of Leicester Body Positive, a peer support development project is set up to develop opportunities for peer support, undertake and develop advocacy, and develop self-sustaining systems for people with HIV to influence the planning and provision of services in Leicestershire.

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A History of HIV & AIDS – 1990

As we prepare to enter our 25th year, we are reflecting on the global HIV events from the last three decades.  HIV has swept across the globe and support touching communities on every continent.  Here’s an introduction to some of the key moments in the early global history of HIV.  Catch up on the story using the ‘Recent Posts’ link to the right.

One of the primary routes of HIV transmission is through direct contact between your blood and HIV infected blood. Although the majority of HIV infections via blood occur through injecting drug use, medical settings still account for a significant number of new HIV infections.  Across the world numerous cases of HIV transmission through blood transfusions, medical injections, medical waste and occupational exposure, are both reported and unreported.

There are an estimated 250,000 new infections per year as a result of the reuse of needles and syringes,1 and in Africa 250 to 500 people are newly infected with HIV each day as a result of unsafe blood transfusions.2 3 Testing of blood is essential but remains absent in many low and middle-income countries.

In 1990, at the beginning of the year, it was reported that a large number of children in Romanian hospitals and orphanages had become infected with HIV as a result of multiple blood transfusions and the reuse of needles.

In China, 146 people in Yunnan Province near the Burmese border were found to be infected with HIV due to sharing needles.

In June, a TV programme called ‘The AIDS Catch’ was screened in the UK, questioning whether HIV caused AIDS and whether AIDS was infectious. It was felt the programme caused significant distress among people with HIV and undermined the efforts carried out in the field of HIV/AIDS prevention.

Prime Minister John Major announced that the Government would pay £42 million compensation to haemophiliacs infected with HIV and their dependants.

British actor Ian Charleson was a Scottish stage and film actor best known internationally for his starring role as Olympic athlete and missionary Eric Liddell, in the Oscar-winning 1981 film Chariots of Fire. He is also well known for his portrayal of Rev. Charlie Andrews in the 1982 Oscar-winning film Gandhi.

Charleson was a noted actor on the British stage as well, with critically acclaimed leads in Guys and DollsCat on a Hot Tin RoofFool for Love, and Hamlet, among many others. Over the course of his life Charleson performed numerous major Shakespearean roles,  dies on January 6, 1990 from AIDS at the age of 40.  His death marked the first showbusiness death in the United Kingdom openly attributed to complications from AIDS.

Later, in 1991, the annual Ian Charleson Awards are established in his honour in to reward the best classical stage performances in Britain by actors aged under 30.

Teenager Ryan White, who in 1987 had surgery to remove two inches off his left lung and believed this was the moment of his infection, dies on April 8, 1990 at the age of 18 from pneumonia caused by AIDS complications.

Congress enacted The Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Resources Emergency (CARE) Act or Ryan White Care Act, the United States’ largest federally funded health related program (excluding Medicaid and Medicare).

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A History of HIV & AIDS – 1987

The first drug licensed to treat HIV was Zidovudine, (AZT). Dr. Robert E. Windom, assistant secretary for health at the Health and Human Services Department, emphasized that AZT, to be sold under the trade name Retrovir, is not a cure for AIDS (sic) but he said the action “means that significant medical relief will be available to thousands of those afflicted with this dreaded disease.”

Windom said that licensing of the drug, “Marks an important step but by no means a final victory in our ongoing war against AIDS.” AZT was expected to be expensive, costing each patient as much as $10,000 a year.

Final approval of AZT, first administered to AIDS patients in human studies begun in July, 1985, came in record time, the result of a decision by the Food and Drug Administration to consider AIDS drugs as a top regulatory priority. Typically, the process takes an average of 8½ years from the earliest studies to licensing, AZT smashed this timeframe and was licenced after just 2 years.

Soon after its introduction, activists establish the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP) to challenge high drug prices and rally on Wall Street where “17 homosexual-rights protestors” were arrested, charged then released.

AIDS activism continues around the world to raise awareness of HIV and AIDS, and to challenge the stigma and prejudice faced by those living the disease. In the US, the AIDS memorial quilt is displayed for the first time during the National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights.

The US government closes its country’s borders to HIV-positive immigrants and visitors which eventually lead to many non-profit organisations to boycott the international AIDS conference in San Francisco in 1990. By 1992, the conference moves from Boston to Amsterdam because of America’s border controls.

An advert featuring The Grim Reaper was launched in Australia to warn people about the dangers of HIV was launched by the National Advisory Committee on AIDS (NACAIDS). The advertisement depicted the Grim Reaper in a bowling alley, bowling over various people from men and women to babies and toddlers, knocking over human ‘pins’ which represented people with HIV.  The commercial first screened on 5 April 1987 and was highly controversial; one reason is the unfortunate blow to the gay community, which had already taken the lead in AIDS awareness and safe sex practices.

The Grim Reaper became identified with gay men rather than as the Reaper which was unintentional, however viewers believed that the Reaper was people with HIV infection, rather than the Reaper harvesting the dead.

The commercial was widely criticised at the time, but it succeeded in creating widespread discussion about AIDS.

1987 also marked a UK Government Cabinet Committee devoted to combatting the epidemic. £20 million was earmarked for a publicity campaign, £5 million of which was to be spent on television commercials which could be adapted for cinema. The dilemma facing the government and advertising agency was whether to use shock tactics, as recommended by health groups or take heed of moral campaigners like Mary Whitehouse, who called for the promotion of “monogamy, not sexual precautions”. Another contentious issue was whether to overturn the Independent Broadcasting Authority’s restriction on commercials recommending condom use.

The result was a hard-hitting campaign containing apocalyptic images of icebergs, crumbling mountains and falling monoliths crashing on our screens.  The aim was to shock people into practising safer sex.

The most remembered of the five advertisements were Tombstone and Iceberg, with their iconic, nightmarish imagery, compounded by John Hurt’s chilling commentary.

The television advertisement campaign was accompanied by educational television and radio programmes on AIDS and related leaflets, bearing the ‘Don’t Die of Ignorance’, slogan were sent to every home in the country. (Click the image above for a copy).  Despite widespread apprehension, the campaign was later acknowledged that it had been successful in precipitating more open discussion about AIDS in the media.

Although cases of AIDS in the UK had remained low, due in part to high profile campaigns, it had become a global epidemic, by this time, the World Health Organisation had been notified of nearly 44,000 cases of AIDS in 91 countries including the cases first recorded in the Soviet Union.

At a time with high ignorance and constant struggle in the face of stigma and discrimination, most of the population thought you could get AIDS from touching someone or sharing equipment or facilities. This was the experience of Mike Sisco, a gay man with HIV.

Mike simply took a dip in a local swimming pool. Word spread quickly, and by the next day fear, panic and rumours – including one that claimed Mike had spit on food at a grocery store—had forced the pool to be closed and prompted a front-page banner headline in the local newspaper which also made the national news.

Mike says that when he went swimming at the pool, the lifeguard was the first person to recognise him, but soon the other bathers did as well. “They kind of ran like in those science fiction movies where Godzilla walks into the street.”

This wasn’t the first time the community had reacted negatively to seeing Mike in public. He says he returned home after contracting AIDS (sic) while living in Dallas. He says his illness quickly became known in the community through the whispers of small-town gossip.  The Opera Winfrey show examed the case in an hour long special filmed at the town hall.

Watch Mike tell Oprah his story in his own words here  and read more about it here.

At a time when panic, fear, prejudice, stigma and discrimination were wide spread, people with HIV were often rejected by friends and family, and ostracised by society, there seemed to be little hope of educating socialy. What was needed was a public figure to openly demonstrate that HIV could not be caught by sharing cups, towels or even air and that support came in the form of Princess Diana.

Diane was drawn to people she felt were not treated fairly and did not receive the support they deserved. She understood that people living with HIV were desperately in need of understanding and support and that is why HIV was a cause she supported so passionately.

She knew that her public profile meant any cause she supported would receive enormous public attention and recognition. For this reason, she chose to support causes which were not considered popular and glamorous – as she knew it was these causes she could make a major difference to.

Princess Diana worked tirelessly both in front of the cameras and behind the scenes to support people living with HIV and to change society’s attitude to HIV – whether visiting HIV positive people in hospital, opening wards, attending conferences and events or supporting fundraising initiatives.

Princess Diana’s commitment and dedication to raising the profile of HIV helped challenge the stigma of the virus. She often publically wore a red ribbon and was the first prominent public figure in the UK to be pictured holding the hand of a person with AIDS in his hospital bed. This iconic image was seen by millions all over the world and had an amazing effect in challenging attitudes towards people living with HIV and breaking down stigma and misconceptions.

In Leicester, an initial meeting brings together around 40 people with an interest in practical action to address the issues related around AIDS and HIV.  A general meeting adopts a constitution and elects a management committee which carries on the work of an initial steering group forming links with other agencies pursuing funding and seeking premises.  The organisation is called: Leicestershire AIDS Support Services.

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