Thatcher told me: ‘I don’t want anything to do’ with the AIDS campaign
Margaret Thatcher “pursed her lips” over the 1986 government campaign against the AIDS epidemic, refusing to take any responsibility, says Edwina Currie.
The ex-Tory MP has spoken to GT (Gay Times) of the moment when she approached the former Prime Minister about the ‘Don’t Die of Ignorance’ campaign of 1986.
It was designed to address the fact that scores of mostly gay and bisexual men were dying from AIDS-related illnesses in an era long before effective treatment for HIV.
Along with adverts, leaflets warning about the epidemic were posted to every household in Britain in 1986.
At the time, Ms Currie was a newly-appointed junior health minister working underneath Lord Fowler, the former Health Secretary ultimately responsible for driving forward the initiative.
Ms Currie said: “When we went and told Mrs Thatcher about it, she pursed her lips and said, ‘Hmm, do you really think this is absolutely necessary?’
“And we said, ‘Yes Prime Minister, this is necessary, people are dying in large numbers and they’re young health people in the prime of life.”
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Ms Currie said Thatcher replied: “If you really think it’s necessary, go ahead, but I don’t want anything to do with it.”
The former MP, who campaigned to change the age of consent in 1994, also revealed former Prime Minister John Major thought she was wrong for not compromising.
“I stopped John in the corridor in the run up to the vote in 94 and said, ‘You should be supporting us, you said in the past how strongly you feel about discrimination,’ and he said, ‘But Edwina, you’re wrong, 18 would be okay’.”
Ms Currie, who had a four-year affair with Sir John in the 1980s, added: “But by then he had become a very weak leader, and really stood to no kind of principle ever. He bore on his face the impression of the last person who sat on it.”
The age of consent was equalised in 1997 under the Labour government of Tony Blair.