In the 1980s, the AIDS crisis hit the UK, killing thousands and disproportionately claiming the lives of young men in the gay community. PinkNews looks at headlines from the 1980s as we mark the 30th anniversary of World AIDS Day on December 1.

The outbreak of AIDS gave the tabloid media an incentive to further demonise gay and bisexual men in Britain.



Although homosexuality was partially decriminalised in 1967, many LGBT+ people in the UK were still treated like second-class citizens.

To mark the 30th anniversary of World AIDS Day on Saturday (December 1), PinkNews has looked at how the gay community were treated by the tabloid media during the AIDS crisis in the UK, including the sudden death of US actor Rock Hudson in 1985, which sparked speculation about his sexuality.

“Gays in fear”: The Sun, 1983

A headline from The Sun in the 1980s, re-published for World AIDS Day
(Taken from an article by Sunil Gupta and Simon Watney in Ecstatic Antibodies: Resisting the AIDS mythology, also edited by Tessa Boffin, published by Rivers Oram Press)

“Gay virus plague”: The Mail on Sunday, 1980s

A headline from The Mail on Sunday, re-published for World AIDS Day
(The Mail on Sunday)

“I’d shoot my son if he has AIDS,” next to a spread about funeral expenses: The Sun, 1985

The Sun's coverage of AIDS in the 1980s used in an article on World AIDS Day
(Taken from an article by Sunil Gupta and Simon Watney in Ecstatic Antibodies: Resisting the AIDS mythology, also edited by Tessa Boffin, published by Rivers Oram Press)

“Gay plague agony”: News of the World, 1980s

A News of the World headline on AIDS, re-used for World AIDS Day
(News of the World)

Tabloids reporting on the death of Rock Hudson, 1985

Tabloids on the death of Rock Hudson, re-published for World AIDS Day
(Taken from an article by Sunil Gupta and Simon Watney in Ecstatic Antibodies: Resisting the AIDS mythology, also edited by Tessa Boffin, published by Rivers Oram Press)

The AIDS crisis and its impact

It’s estimated that nearly 37 million people are living with HIV globally and more than 35 million people have died from AIDS-related illnesses across the world since the outbreak of the pandemic.

Today, HIV-positive individuals can lead a healthy and full life if they are diagnosed early and receive effective treatment.

Getting an HIV test is easier than ever, and results are available in minutes.

Numerous studies have underpinned the Undetectable = Untransmittable or “U=U” campaign.

This mean that, if a person with HIV is on effective treatment, so that they have an undetectable viral load, the virus cannot be passed on to another individual.




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