HIV in Merseyside 1983 to 1994

two men holding up publicity material

Singer and HIV activist Jimmy Sommerville with Andrew Dineley, designer of Liverpool Health Authority's 'Alter Attitudes to AIDS' campaign, in 1989

What is HIV?

HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) if untreated, can lead to failure of the immune system, increasing the risk of life-threatening infections and cancers - a condition now known as late stage HIV - previously referred to as ‘AIDS’. 

The early story of HIV in Merseyside

In 1983 the first reported cases of AIDS in the UK included a Liverpool woman who died four weeks after being admitted to hospital. By 1984 many more men and women in Merseyside were being diagnosed, in particular gay men, haemophiliacs and people who injected drugs.

National and local media coverage of AIDS was overwhelmingly homophobic. AIDS was portrayed as a ‘Gay Plague’ and the media hysteria about ‘AIDS’ was used to stigmatise gay men.

leaflet cover with text 'AIDS - don't die of ignorance'

UK Government AIDS leaflet, delivered to 22 million homes across the UK in 1987

The UK Government was slow to respond to the emerging crisis and money for health education, specialist health care and scientific research was not made available until 1987.

Merseyside’s gay and lesbian community responded to what was happening locally. Merseyside AIDS Support Group was set up in 1985 and Mersey Body Positive in 1987. Both groups provided practical, emotional and social support to people with HIV/AIDS and their families and friends. They worked to raise awareness of HIV/AIDS and safer sex in Merseyside. 

The Mersey Drug Training and Information Centre pioneered its needle exchange which became internationally renowned as the ‘Mersey Model’. The needle exchange had a major impact on reducing HIV transmission.