History – Information By Kevin Timmins on plaques around the Beacon of Hope
The beginning of the pandemic
1981 – Rumour:
First signs of the epidemic in the USA and the New York press reports on a kind of cancer. Panic and politics ignite the West Coast of America as the US Centre for Disease Control publish the first paper on the symptoms that are shattering the gay community. Elsewhere in the world, people have yet to face the reality of a major health threat.
1982 – Beginnings:
Gay Related Immune Deficiency Disease (GRID) becomes Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) as symptoms are reported beyond the gay community. Doctors continue to investigate but the public remain ill-informed and frightened. A gay man called Terry Higgins dies of AIDS in a London hospital. His friends set up a fund in his name to start the fight against the disease.
1983 – Virus:
Doctors isolate the virus, which is thought to lead to AIDS (later named as HIV). However arguments in the scientific community over who discovered the virus delays vital research into treatment and testing. As death rates continue to rise, London Gay Switchboard calls a public meeting. The Terry Higgins Trust becomes The Terrence Higgins Trust and produces the UK’s first leaflet on AIDS.
1984 – Myths:
Knowledge of HIV grows, but in the wider global community the epidemic is still characterised by myth. With reported cases of AIDS on the rise in the UK, gay men still remain the group most affected, prompting attacks in the UK’s tabloid press. While gay communities receive the brunt of the blame, the virus continues to infect without prejudice and HIV rates rise in heterosexual communities.
1985 – Communities:
The first commercial anti-HIV drug becomes available. However, the drug is expensive, and poorer countries remain devastated by HIV. In the western world, communities come together to fight the virus. Body Positive (London) opens as the UK’s first self-help group for people living with HIV. In Manchester AIDSline counters rising anxiety with an information helpline.
1986 – Growth:
Infection rates rise amongst drug users, pregnant mothers and their babies. Manchester City Councilis one of the first local authorities to agree a policy on HIV and AIDS, while Manchester AIDSline expands its services to include a Welfare Fund, a buddying scheme, and weekly meetings for its Body Positive Group. The first major AIDS health campaign is censored by the government.
1987 – Ignorance:
The British Government delivers an AIDS information leaflet to every home in the country, bearing the line “Don’t Die Of Ignorance”. As a result the country witnesses fear and loathing on a national scale as the myths prove hard to shake. In an effort to stem the rising tide of ignorance Princess Diana makes worldwide front page news, when she hold the hand of an AIDS patient, and becomes a vital figure in the fight against HIV.
1988 – Firsts:
The World Health Organisation estimates that around 10 million people are infected worldwide as the first World AIDS Day places the issues under a global spotlight. Despite social and medical improvements, London Lighthouse experiences a hostile climate when it becomes the first centre to offer care and support to those living with HIV and AIDS. In Manchester the first fundraiser to fight the epidemic is held on Canal Street.
1989 – Politics:
In the UK, Labour’s attempts to secure employment rights for people living with HIV fail in the face of a government majority. Meanwhile, several high profile AIDS charities are given proper funding to support their services. ACT UP forms in London, marking a radical shift in community response, and putting HIV firmly on the political agenda through a series of provocative publicity stunts.
The decade of advancement
1990 – Prevention:
As information about HIV continues to develop, prevention campaigns come to the fore, ushering in a new decade of safer sex. MESMAC Manchester begins an immediate and upfront gay community response. Manchester AIDSLine and Body Postive (North West) find a joint home at George House. The Black HIV and AIDS forum (BHAF) now known as The Black Health Agency is set up in Manchester to work with black communities and combat health inequalities.
1991 – Symbols:
A watershed year in HIV awareness as the Red Ribbon becomes the worldwide symbol of AIDS. The Village Charity is born in Manchester to develop an annual fundraiser and raise vital money for the region. As a result, the first Bank Holiday carnival hits the streets of Manchester. The event is a great success with local Lesbian and Gay communities coming out in force to support people living with HIV and AIDS.
1992 – Debate:
The fight against HIV gathers momentum as debate rages over local authority spending. In spite of the arguments Manchester AIDSline continues to expand its services and becomes George House Trust, whilst Body Positive (North West) opens its own premises. In London Gay Men Fighting AIDS (GMFA) is launched. Debate rages further when world-renowned fashion house, Benetton, uses the picture of a man dying from AIDS in an ad campaign.
1993 – Drugs:
The World Health Organisation estimates that over 15 million adults worldwide are infected with HIV. The worst figures are still those from the developing countries, where care and prevention are hampered by costs. The Concorde Trials give rise to a serious debate over the effectiveness of AZT, the only anti-HIV drug available at the time. It seems the impact of the new drugs can be improved.
1994 – Radical:
The government announces huge cutbacks as the Health Minister blocks a major £2m campaign and local funding is withdrawn. However, the Paris Declaration to improve health services is signed by 42 states. Furthermore, the success of a Hollywood film, Philadelphia, marks a shift in public support. Healthy Gay Manchester (HGM) is launched to produce a more local radical brand of gay men’s HIV prevention.
1995 – Information:
As knowledge and understanding increase, publications like Positive Times & Positive Nation are launched ensuring vital information continues to reach the public. In the UK, the Delta Trial confirms that anti-HIV drug therapies are improving. The first Manchester Mardi Gras street festival raises much-needed money and awareness whilst giving local charities a platform for new ideas and information.
1996 – Advances:
The 11th World AIDS Conference in Vancouver announces major advances in treatments, as combination therapy proves effective in many trials. Despite these major developments, HIV continues to infect complacent communities, including gay men in the west, making prevention a critical issue. HGM launch their Community Fighting Fund in an effort to boost local prevention work with gay men.
1997 – Events:
The nation mourns the tragic death of Princess Diana, a figurehead in the fight against the virus. As the Manchester Mardi Gras continues to bloom, the Village Charity is forced to close. Therapies continue to succeed, and the numbers of those living with HIV continues to increase. Body Positive (North West)find a new home for their growing services, while a national strategy for gay men’s prevention work begins to forge a unified focus.
1998 – Concern:
Despite a falling death rate in the West, more continue to be infected with HIV throughout the world prompting concerns over the cost and availability of treatment. In the face of government cuts, communities in the UK continue to strengthen. Those living with HIV find a real voice when many come together to fight political attempts to criminalise HIV transmission, plus the increasing threat of funding cuts.
1999 – Statistics:
Concern continues for care services, treatment and prevention strategies throughout the world, as statistics prove the health crisis has not gone away. In the UK, 30,000 people are infected with HIV (less than the early years predicted), although more than 10,000 are unaware of their infection. Globally, it is estimated there are over 34 million people living with HIV, while over 16 million people have died from AIDS.
Where do we go now?
2000 – Life:
The Beacon of Hope marks a new century of support, prevention and therapy. Hoped for further treatment advances, a lowering of infection rates and improved quality of life have all become realities. Foundations are in place for significant change. Remembrance remains for those who went before us, who we have lost, who made the difference to our futures and who will never be forgotten.
2001 – Concern:
20 years of the epidemic. Concerns are raised about the increasing levels of drug-resistant strains of the virus along with the increased levels of complacency about the issue of HIV and AIDS. The United Nations Security Council discusses HIV and AIDS for the first time and UN Secretary Kofi Annan maps a plan of action calling for the creation of a global fund on AIDS and Health.
2002 – Doubled:
20th anniversary of Terry Higgins death and the founding of Terrence Higgins Trust. UK government scraps ring-fenced funding for HIV prevention work as new figures show numbers diagnosed with HIV are rising. Between 1996 and 2002, the number of newly diagnosed HIV cases annually has more than doubled from 2696 to 5854. Globally, HIV is the leading cause of death of those aged 15 to 59.
2003 – Prejudice:
A National AIDS Trust report entitled ‘Are You HIV Prejudiced?’ presents a number of case studies of people in the UK facing prejudice as a result of their HIV status and concludes that the issue is still a big problem. The first person in England is prosecuted for the transmission of HIV. New HIV infections around the world number 5 million, the greatest number in a single year since the epidemic began.
2004 – Therapies:
Over 20 million people have died of AIDS around the world since 1981. As the emphasis on simpler therapies continues, two new combination drugs and two new protease inhibitors are released. It was announced that between 1997 and 2003 there was a 35% increase in the diagnosis of heterosexually acquired HIV infections in the UK, 70% of which is accounted for by people of African origin.
2005 – Prophylaxis:
Chris Smith MP announces that he is HIV positive. Anti-retroviral Post Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) is recommended for people exposed to HIV from rapes, accidents, or occasional unsafe sex or drug use. Royal Assent is given to the Disability Discrimination Act giving legal protection against discrimination for people living with HIV fro the point of diagnosis.
2006 – Unaware:
The cumulative number of people living with HIV in the UK Is estimated at 73,000. A third of these people are thought to be unaware of their infection. A report in March states that HIV transmission through injecting drug use is at its highest level since 1992. In June, the case of the second woman in the UK to be sent to jail for infecting a lover with HIV raises fears that anyone who is infected with HIV could potentially create a case.
2007 – Contamination:
The UK Coalition of People Living with HIV closes. An independent inquiry looks into cases of HIV that occurred amongst haemophiliacs during the 1970s and 1980s as a result of contaminated blood products. It is thought that 1,243 haemophiliac patients were exposed to HIV. There are 7,734 new HIV diagnoses, the highest number ever recorded in the UK.
2008 – Testing:
Nick Partridge, Chief Executive of the Terrence Higgins Trust, awarded a knighthood for his work in tackling HIV and AIDS in the UK. New HIV testing guidelines, supported by the Department of Health, recommend that all men and women between the ages of 15 and 59 in high risk areas of England should be offered a HIV test by their GP. The guidelines also suggest that gay men should be tested annually.
2009 – Late:
The ‘Testing Targets’ report, informed by the UK Gay Men’s Sex Survey, indicates an increase in the number of gay men who have had an HIV test. 42% of new diagnoses are among men who have sex with men. The Health Protection Agency release the ‘HIV in the United Kingdom’ report. 52% of people diagnosed with HIV are diagnosed late. The cumulative total of HIV diagnoses in the UK reaches nearly 112,000.
2010 – Manchester:
George House Trust’s 25th birthday. Manchester Pride’s HIV Candlelit Vigil is attended by over 3,000 people. The Lesbian and Gay Foundation’s free condom and lube distribution scheme for gay and bisexual men, celebrates its 16th birthday. By December there are 144,726 people in the UK living with HIV. Total number of HIV diagnoses in the North West of England are 8,330 and 3,980 people in Greater Manchester are living with HIV. Since 1996 there have been 233 AIDS related deaths in Greater Manchester.
2011 – Offer:
General Assembly of the United Nations issues a Political Declaration stating their intention to intensify efforts to eliminate HIV and AIDS completely. NHS staff in Manchester are told to offer and recommend HIV tests to everyone using accident and emergency services and registering as new patients with GP practices. 34 million people around the world are living with HIV but new cases of diagnosed HIV worldwide have decreased over the previous 10 years.
2012 – PrEP:
HIV treatment in the UK is made free of charge to people from overseas. The first National HIV Testing Week takes place co-ordinated by HIV Prevention England. Trials of PrEP (Pre Exposure Prophylaxis) begin to ascertain its effectiveness in preventing the acquisition of HIV and early data proves promising.
2013 – 90-90-90:
The British HIV Association (BHIVA) publish ‘Standards of Care for People Living with HIV’. New awareness campaign ‘It Starts With Me’ is rolled out, funded by HIV Prevention England and backed by the Department of Health encouraging HIV testing. The 25th World AIDS Day is marked on 1 December. UNAIDS introduces the 90-90-90 campaign aiming for 90% of people to know their HIV status, 90% of people living with HIV to have access to treatment and 90% of all people on treatment to have an undetectable viral load by 2020.
2014 – Undetectable:
First results from the Partner study indicate that no HIV transmissions had occurred in sero-discordant couples routinely not using condoms where the person living with HIV had an undetectable viral load. The Greater Manchester free condom and lube scheme is 20 years old following its inception by Healthy Gay Manchester in 1994. The Lesbian and Gay Foundation continue to manage one of the longest schemes of its kind in the UK. Joep Lange, Dutch HIV researcher, advocate and former President of the International AIDS Society dies on board Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 along with many other HIV researchers and scientists, en route to the 20th International AIDS Conference in Melbourne.
2015 – Community:
The first legally approved HIV self-test kit allowing people to get a result in 15 minutes at home goes on sale in England, Scotland and Wales. George House Trust marks 30 years of providing HIV support to people in the North West of England. 17 million people – almost half of all people living with HIV worldwide – now have access to treatment. BHA for Equality celebrates 25 years of providing HIV prevention and support services for black and ethnic minority communities across Greater Manchester. LGBT Foundation and BHA for Equality launch a new community rapid HIV testing service across Greater Manchester.
2016 – U=U:
The lifetime ban on men who have sex with men giving blood is lifted and replaced with a one year deferral. National AIDS Trust wins landmark Court of Appeal ruling after arguing that the NHS could fund PrEP (Pre Exposure Prophylaxis). NHS announces that they will fund a large-scale trial as the first stage of a wider national rollout. The global Prevention Access Campaign issues a U=U (Undetectable equals Untransmittable) consensus statement stating that the risk of HIV transmission from a person living with HIV, on treatment and with an undetectable viral load is negligible to non-existent following further results from the Partner study. New diagnosis rates amongst gay and bi men fall by almost half across four London clinics compared to the previous year.
2017 – PaSH:
The PaSH (Passionate about Sexual Health) Partnership of BHA for Equality, George House Trust, and LGBT Foundation launch a new integrated HIV prevention and support programme across Greater Manchester. U=U advocates and activists hold a press conference with global leaders at the International AIDS Society conference in Paris to endorse the U=U message and to call for universal access to HIV treatment.
2018 – Leadership:
Greater Manchester is launched as a Fast Track City Region and commits to ending all new HIV transmissions by 2030. All 10 Greater Manchester boroughs sign up. A Public Health England report shows that the UK is one of the first countries to meet the UNAIDS 90-90-90 targets. The British HIV Association (BHIVA) publishes an updated version of ‘Standards of Care for People Living with HIV’ providing an important benchmark for quality of care.
2019 – Study:
Welsh rugby player Gareth Thomas publicly shares that he is living with HIV. Final results from the Partner study are published in the Lancet medical journal providing conclusive evidence that people living with HIV and on effective treatment cannot pass HIV to someone else during sex. LGBT Foundation marks 25 years of the free condom and lube scheme.
2020 – Together:
1.5 million new HIV diagnoses are reported around the world, a figure compounded by waning public and political engagement, funding shortages and the Covid-19 pandemic. The PaSH partnership launches the ‘HIV: Lets Sort This Together’ campaign. The UK government announces that PrEP will be made available free on the NHS in England to people at high risk of acquiring HIV. George House Trust marks 35 years of providing HIV support.
2021 – Progress:
40 years since the first five cases of a mysterious illness which was later to become known as HIV were reported in the US. Channel 4 launches ‘it’s a Sin’, written by Russell T Davies, depicting the lives of a group of gay men and their friends in London in the 1980s at the height of the AIDS crisis. On World AIDS Day, Manchester Foundation Trust launches opt-out HIV testing in Emergency Departments. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) approves the use of long-lasting injectable HIV treatment in England. The Department of Health and Social Care launches its ‘Towards Zero’ HIV Action Plan.