HomeHIV/AIDS1980s. HIV/AIDS: Why was AIDS called ‘the gay plague’?


1980s. HIV/AIDS: Why was AIDS called ‘the gay plague’? — 8 Comments

  1. What happened to people making desions on making a desions about aids and how it spreads .i as a gay man have always wondered what make a certain segument of our genration want to go out and get this deseace and promote it like it was postive to be postive ,not saying i would agree with that its a horribable to think that one would go and do such a thing,but where do some think like that.sorry just confused why

  2. I don’t think you can blame it all on homophobia. There was a good 2 years of absolute panic and hysteria surrounding AIDS/HIV when it first hit the scene. It seemed as if it was a plague to many during the first 2 years. They thought it was rapidly spreading from city to city/person to person, as opposed to the reality. Many who had the virus for some time were being diagnosed.

    I was a little girl when it hit the news in 1981. 5, maybe 6 years old. I thought it was the zombie apocalypse when I saw pictures of people wasting away in hospital beds, covered in Kaposi’s sarcoma.

    Parents… many parents lost their minds and kept pushing the narrative that it was spread by air, kiss or toliet seats in an irrational attempt to make their children take excess precautionary measures/keep them safe. We currently have 105 stranger abductions in the U.S. a year, out of a population of 320 million, 78 million under 18. It was only slightly higher in the 1970s & 80s when kids played outside all day. Crimes rates have been falling since the 90s. Youth mortality rates are at an all time low but perceived levels of danger are through the roof. It’s become so uncommon to see kids outside playing over the years that parents are being arrested and charged with neglect/child endangerment for letting their children play unsupervised in their own yard. Not because something happened but because someone could have taken their child. They broke the mantra of hysteria and left their perfectly capable child alone. Forget the fact that they have a greater risk of being hit by lightning in their own bathtub. Parents perceive the danger to be much, much greater and law makers (many who are terrified parents themselves) have been persecuting others due to their hysterical sense of perceived danger. Magnify that by 20 during the AIDS panic. The information kept changing as researchers discovered more and many took it as a sign that they had no idea what they were talking about. Fair enough. They didn’t at first, but many continued to latch on to this fear and speculation.

    I’m not saying homophobia was not involved at all. Just that it was far more complex. Humans are far more complex, and dismissing it all as homophobia is all too simplistic and taking easy way out. It’s a very Millennial thing to do.

    • Thanks for this considered response Polly. I certainly agree that people tend to go into panic mode without checking the facts first, be that child welfare or HIV/AIDS. However, I still think we need to look behind that and see who’s responsible for feeding these irrational responses. As you say in your second comment, the media like a good panic. It sells newspapers, for one thing and, as we’re finding here in the UK (and the USA too, I suspect), there’s often a political and/or moral agenda behind this misreporting.
      I can’t agree with your statement that information kept changing as researchers learned more and more. The Centers for Disease Control made a very clear statement ruling out casual transmission ( I.e. AIDS was not a plague) in 1983. The media chose to ignore this, as did President Reagan who chose instead to deny there was such evidence, purely for the sake of political expediency. It would be nice to think that episodes like this would make the public more wary of media and politicians ‘facts’, but sadly that still doesn’t seem to be the case.

  3. P.S- Surprise! Surprise! The media loves a panic.

    We’re talking about the same group of people who pushed the insane notion that Satanic Day Care Workers were horrifically abusing hundreds to thousands of child without any parents knowing.

  4. One reason it was considered a plague is because it was a death sentence. 100% of patients died. Nowadays HIV is more of a chronic condition with appropriate treatment. It’ has a different prognosis than in the early years. I remember living through the 80s terrified as a tween/teenager in the 80s. People with HIV were pariahs and frequently abandoned all of this was similar to the days of the black plague (although some did recover from that disease).

  5. Hi, do you have access to the Daily Mail newspaper you are referring to? I have searched the archives and can’t seem to find it.


    • I have a photocopy of the original article or, more precisely, the press clipping that was provided to the Hall Carpenter Archive by Durrant’s Press clipping service. The image in my post is part of that photocopy. The article is actually from the Mail on Sunday so apologies if this has caused any confusion, although they both come from the same stable and the date is still the same. Which archive are you using? The Hall Carpenter Archive press clippings were transferred to the Terrence Higgins Trust some 30 years ago when the Archive had to move out of its offices because it lost its funding when the Greater London Council was abolished.

  6. This really was a disease contracted almost exclusively by homosexuals, here in the States, anyway. I remember vividly the term GRID , and how it was spreading in the gay community and terrorizing everyone. The media , actually, was a bit squeamish in reporting it, because of the subject matter. Not until Rock Hudson died of AIDS, did the media begin to oversaturate the magazines and paper with it. Again, it was a touchy topic and was not lurid or graphic, because the media was much more prudish in the pre-internet days

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