Don’t Die of Ignorance

Government Aids Public Information Poster for ‘Don’t Die of Ignorance’ campaign.

“The 80’s were a particularly bad time to be gay because of HIV/AIDS and because a number of newspapers would have headlines about, you know, sending all gay people to camps and so on”….. You know there were outbursts like that and, you know, you could feel horribly insecure. And, no, it was very, very unpleasant. It was a very difficult time to be
openly gay.”

AIDS dominated the 1980’s as well as LGBT issues both in the mainstream and for individuals. An intense media focus on HIV and AIDS, a new and frightening disease, led to widespread hysteria across the UK. Victims were often viewed as falling into two groups: haemophiliacs who were labelled as ‘innocent victims’, and gay men and drug users, who were frequently referred to as ‘authors of their own misfortune’.
In 1983 the BBC’s Panorama broadcast the first TV documentary on AIDS. Then, in 1987, the government’s iconic AIDS adverts appeared and a leaflet was delivered to every home in the country bearing the line “Don’t Die of Ignorance”.

Fear and misunderstanding made the myths about those affected by the disease hard to shake. In an effort to stem the rising tide of ignorance Princess Diana made worldwide front page news when she held the hand of an AIDS patient.
In 1987 The Eddystone Trust, an independent organisation run by volunteers to provide information, training and support for anyone
affected by HIV/AIDS, was founded. Originally focused on the Plymouth area, the charity has since grown and now delivers services across the SouthWest. The aims of the Trust are to provide practical and emotional support to people affected by HIV; to raise awareness and understanding of HIV; and to promote and provide resources for improved health.

Loss by Kevin Kelland 1996

“The media had a field day ‘gay bashing’. When AIDS came about, the headlines were full of ‘The Gay Plague’ feeding on people’s prejudice and homophobia.”

“If I hadn’t met my partner when I did then I would probably have been dead of AIDS by now or HIV.”

“Ivor.”(who died of AIDS). Photographer Kevin Kelland, 1978

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