This film is part of Free

Aids: The Last Chance (Part 1)

A young Sinéad O'Connor pops up in the first of a two-part This Week special about the spread of AIDS

1986 28 mins


The first of a two-part This Week special on doctors' fears about the spread of AIDS looks beyond the so-called 'gay plague'. From partner-swapping London singles to Edinburgh heroin addicts, the report's tone of mounting concern may annoy gay men who survived the crisis and often felt abandoned by authorities: only a perceived threat to heterosexuals seemed to prompt such belated action. Shockingly, the first government awareness campaign was only published in March 1986, four years after the first UK diagnoses and deaths.

We see specialist AIDS wards under construction in the regions (central London is described as a "lost cause"). It was then anticipated that 1 million people could be infected by 1990, and as the programme indicates the AZT drug was far from a cure; not until the mid-1990s would new combination therapy see AIDS-related deaths plateau in the UK. Concerns over threats to civil liberties are brushed aside when a 'balanced' selection of viewers vote for compulsory screening and identity cards, though the lack of frank TV advertising is challenged. Look out for 19-year-old Sinéad O'Connor in a mock-up ad for 'Prophyltex' extra-strong condoms. The young singles blithely dismiss condom use: "like eating a Mars Bar with the wrapper on".