Daryl Leeworthy
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A phoney war? Health, education, and popular responses to HIV/AIDS in Wales, 1983–2003
in Histories of HIV/AIDS in Western Europe
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This chapter takes as its central theme the relative absence of HIV/AIDS in the 1980s and 1990s in Wales, together with the social, cultural, and political consequences. Described as a ‘phoney war’ by a leading public health consultant, the non-appearance of the HIV/AIDS crisis across Wales fostered a struggle between medical practitioners, campaigners, and administrators under pressure to implement spending cuts. The result, in many parts of Wales, was relative complacency.

This chapter is the first sustained historical analysis of the public response to the HIV/AIDS crisis in the Welsh context. It draws on both epidemiological and wider English and Welsh-medium evidence, including epidemiological and sociological research, local health authority records, educational materials, and, notably, the call logs of the helpline FRIEND, which had been founded in the 1970s.

Three main themes emerge: the distinctive work of the medical community and public health education; the reactions of the general public and politicians, which were not always as hostile as the conservatives assumed; and the internal anxieties and reflections of gay men captured in telephone logs and interviews. Finally, the chapter also locates the public response to HIV/AIDS in a shifting political context. Rather than a ‘phoney war’, this was a complex and changing series of responses to a developing situation. This, far more than hostility, ignorance, or absence, should serve as the framework for studying social and cultural reactions to HIV/AIDS in Wales.

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Histories of HIV/AIDS in Western Europe

New and Regional Perspectives

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