Main Forums > AIDS Activism

UK - Public attitudes on HIV stuck in 1980s


Jim Allen:
Terrence Higgins Trust - July 2023

--- Quote ---Forty years since Terrence Higgins became the UKís first named person to die of an AIDS-related illness on 4 July 1982, the Governmentís AIDS awareness advert from 1987 Ė with actor John Hurtís haunting delivery of 'itís a deadly disease with no known cure' to a backdrop of falling tombstones Ė continues to cast a damaging shadow over the publicís perception of HIV.

The data from YouGov polling of over 2,000 Brits shows that almost half of people (48%) remember the tombstones campaign, with that rising to three quarters (76%) in 45-54 year olds and 70% in those aged 55 and over.

The advert from 1987 was accurate at the time and undoubtedly saved countless lives. It says of HIV: 'It is a deadly disease and thereís no known cure. The virus can be passed during sexual intercourse with an infected person. If you ignore AIDS, it could be the death of you'.
--- End quote ---

--- Quote ---The research also found high levels of HIV related stigma 40 years since Terrence Higginsí death, with just 30% of people saying they are comfortable dating someone living with HIV. While fewer than two in five (37%) would be comfortable kissing someone living with HIV. This comes despite it being clear since the start of the epidemic that HIV canít be passed on through kissing or any other day-to-day contact including sharing cutlery or holding hands.

Similarly, only 21% of people say they would be comfortable having sex with someone living with HIV and on effective treatment Ė despite it being impossible for HIV to be passed on as medication suppresses the amount of virus to such low levels it canít be detected or passed to anyone else. These numbers show a worrying disconnect between knowledge about HIV transmission and its impact on how people living with HIV are perceived and treated.

--- End quote ---

Jim Allen:

--- Quote --- the Governmentís AIDS awareness advert from 1987 Ė with actor John Hurtís haunting delivery of 'itís a deadly disease with no known cure' to a backdrop of falling tombstones
--- End quote ---

Yup, I remember the adds.

you know, I'm always saying that people only know about the diseases that affect them or their families. So as AIDS deaths declined and transmissions reduced fewer and fewer, thankfully, people were affected and learned about HIV. As soon as the peak of the deaths from the epidemic receded, so did people's concern... leaving them with only the messages that they had heard during the worst times.

today we see this same lack of knowledge in the forums all the time. AII? members ask questions about so many actions that are not risks for transmission. While their fears may be based on guilt (guilt over sex, sadly), their fears seem to be based on the tag line "it could be the death of you". Newly diagnosed, thrust into having to become knowledgeable about this disease now that they are affected, don't understand enough about the changes in treatment over the last 40+ yrs. to yet realize that HIV does not equal death either. Sometimes this lack of knowledge can be maddening to us "in the know"; yet for each of those worriers and newbies, there are literally millions of people just as ignorant about HIV.

Of course, in the long run this has a lot to do with sex. Sure there are plenty of people who get infected through substance abuse/injection needle; but the drug abuse clearly means many of those people are not making sound health decisions at the time of risk. But with sex, nearly everybody does it. The rate of STIs isn't high because of just at-risk groups; the rate is high because most people still don't take the appropriate precautions for sex. We're not trained to do that; instead we're often trained to not take precautions.

whose parents don't pass on their wish to be grandparents? How infrequent are condom ads or sexual health care public service announcements? For that matter, how often to ARVs or PrEP commercials mention condom usage? Quite frankly when does anyone get told to use condoms to prevent HIV or pregnancy? Going by the current rate of population growth, since every pregnancy or pregnancy scare was also a risk for HIV, it's amazing we're not drowning in HIV by our own ignorance.

I know. I know. It's a rant of mine. The three things main goals for all my advocacy work have been for more and better meds and access to those meds; mental health and peer support; and prevention.

Jim Allen:

--- Quote ---it's amazing we're not drowning in HIV by our own ignorance.
--- End quote ---



[0] Message Index

Go to full version