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Hundreds Join AIDS Vigil


This editorial from 'In The Pink', December 1989, reports the first World Aids Day in Birmingham and also highlights the way some right wing politicians used the human tragedy of the crisis to further their ideology.


December 1st was proclaimed by the World Health Organisation last year as a way of focusing attention on the continuing growth of the AIDS pandemic. This year the attempt to heighten public awareness about the issues was hindered by a spate of press reports which set out to rubbish the idea that "normal" heterosexuals were at risk from HIV infection.

Over the last couple of years there has been a growing public recognition that AIDS is an issue for everyone but there have been exceptions. Persistent voices on the right have long claimed that the simplistic formula of "chastity before marriage and fidelity within" was the only effective means of curbing the spread of HIV infection. The Conservative Family Campaign (a group which has the support of 26 MPs including Dame ), which increasingly seems to have the Prime Minister's ear, has long subscribed to this view. Most recently, the Labour Peer, Lord Kilbracken stated that only one person had contracted AIDS through "normal heterosexual sex", He went on to condemn plans for further health education campaigns aimed at the general population as "a waste of public money". The tabloids quickly jumped on the band wagon with headlines such as "THE TRUTH ABOUT AIDS - normal sex is safe official". The facts however speak for themselves: there were 128 cases of people who contracted AIDS through heterosexual sex, 58 new cases reported in the first 10 months of this year; a further 2,715 people were infected with HIV heterosexually. Nick Partridge, of the Terrence Higgins Trust, said "How many more will die because the muddled thoughts of a few mavericks are given such prominence while the knowledge of thousands of doctors, health educators and researchers is ignored".


In the West Midlands a committee with representatives of the statutory and voluntary organisations working in the field was set up to co-ordinate activities for World AIDS Day. A phone line to answer queries expected was set up and staffed by experienced operators from a number of agencies. The Birmingham Group held a fund raising bingo session at The . The bingo, a raffle and the sale of T-shirts, badges etc raised a total of 346. The proceeds will ao to The Positive Lights Trust - a fund which will give small grants to people in need who have HIV or AIDS.
Several hundred people joined a candle light procession on Saturday 2nd December. Starting at Chamberlain Square and finishing outside St Martins at the . Inside the church a short vigil was held. Three individuals spoke of how AIDS had touched their lives. The vigil ended with people singing The Rose and A Little Help From My Friends.

In the Capital, on Friday 1st, OLGA organised a delegation to Number Ten to present a number of demands including greater funding of AIDS research and better provision of housing etc for people with AIDS. On the same day ACT-UP London chained themselves across Westminster Bridge bringing traffic to a standstill and leading to the arrest of nine members. Meanwhile in Parliament Green over 2D0 ACT-UP members planted hundreds of white croases inscribed with the words "HEALTH EDUCATION AUTHORITY SAFER SEX CAMPAIGN R.I.P.".

Contributed by: In The Pink, 21

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