HIV the early years
June 1982 to August 1996
In the early years of the HIV epidemic the medical establishment could provide no solution to the crisis; infection with HIV often led to AIDS which meant a slow and painful death.
This period is now commonly referred to as the AIDS crisis and gay communities throughout the Western world bore the brunt of the early epidemic.
Stigmatisation and prejudice were commonplace, even from within the gay community and misinformation and ignorance of safer sex meant the disease spread rapidly. The tabloid media whipped up a climate of anti gay fear with lurid headlines such as 'Gay Plague' fuelling long held prejudices. Many people did not take a test through fear.
Out of this sense of hopelessness and fear a climate of solidarity developed and many community action groups and support groups sprung up such as Body Positive and AIDSline West Midlands, with gay men and women showing extraordinary courage and kindness in the face of what was for the majority a death sentence.
Even with the prescription of AZT in the late 1980s the prognosis for anyone diagnosed as positive was not a good one, with high doses of the drug causing crippling side effects and only prolonging life in the short term.
Many people were lost before the widespread use of life saving anti-retrovirals in 1996, which had been in development and trials for many years.