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As the AIDS crisis emerged, prisons were quickly identified as possible
‘reservoirs of infection’, where injecting drug use, sex between men,
violence, and poor hygiene might all contribute towards the spread of HIV.
Some countries moved to introduce punitive or restrictive measures within
their prisons, while researchers and international bodies hastened to
promote an alternative approach, based on voluntarism, education, and harm
reduction. This tried to acknowledge prisoners’ rights and to position
prisons as an integral part of the wider community, and by the early 1990s
some regions saw innovations such as methadone treatment and needle
exchanges established within their prisons.
This chapter reviews and begins to explain the different ways in which countries around Europe responded to HIV/AIDS in their prison systems. The size of a nation’s prison population and the extent of injecting drug use were both important factors in determining national response, as were pre-existing structures of prison healthcare provision and attitudes towards both homosexuality and crime. Responses in prisons were also closely affiliated to responses in the wider community – perhaps to a greater extent than campaigners calling for greater parity were prepared to recognise. It then compares policies and developments in the Republic of Ireland and Switzerland to explore different forms of activism, with different outcomes. Using international evaluations and research from the 1980s and 1990s, national policy documents, and oral histories, this chapter also raises questions about the kind of activism surrounding HIV/AIDS that is remembered.
As the AIDS crisis of the 1980s and 1990s recedes from popular memory,
researchers are once again beginning to engage with the subject from historical
perspectives. This collection brings together some of the exciting new work
emerging from this resurgence, addressing essential but much less well-known
histories of HIV/AIDS.
Focusing on regions of Western Europe, Histories of HIV/AIDS introduces aspects of the epidemic from places including Scotland, Wales, Italy, Norway, the Netherlands, Ireland, and Switzerland, and draws attention to the experiences and activities of often-overlooked people: sex workers, drug users, mothers, nurses, social workers, and those living and working in prisons. It also examines the challenges, opportunities, and risks at the heart of how we archive and remember this epidemic. Highlighting the importance of understanding local and national contexts, transnational interactions, and heterogeneous forms of policy, activism, and expertise, it encourages attention to the complexity of these histories and their ongoing importance today.
Of particular interest to historians of modern Europe and health, area studies specialists, and those working with archives and museums, this book is an essential addition to HIV/AIDS studies and histories.
This introductory chapter provides an overview of the timeline of HIV/AIDS in Western Europe, and the dominant Anglo-American historiography to date. It uses the idea of the ‘AIDS capital’ to explore the collection’s primary innovation: drawing together new histories of HIV/AIDS that are attuned to the importance of place and to lesser-known experiences and activities, including those of sex workers, drug users, mothers, nurses, social workers, and those living and working in prisons. This chapter then discusses the key themes examined by the chapters: local and national contexts, transnational interactions, heterogeneous forms of policy, activism, and expertise, and the challenges, opportunities, and risks at the heart of how we archive and remember this epidemic. The eight chapters within the collection are then introduced and summarised, demonstrating some of the possibilities offered by interdisciplinary approaches and attention beyond the familiar Anglo-American national histories of HIV/AIDS.