Largest ever collection of HIV/AIDS interviews revealed in London

Hundreds of people gave testimony about their experiences during the AIDS epidemic  (City of London )
Hundreds of people gave testimony about their experiences during the AIDS epidemic (City of London )

The largest collection of filmed interviews ever compiled about the HIV/AIDS pandemic of the 1980s and 1990s will be unveiled in London on Thursday.

The archive, opened in the London Metropolitan Archives (LMA) in Clerkenwell, includes 100 in-depth interviews with members of the LGBTQ community as well as doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals who worked during the period.

It chronicles individuals’ lives and experiences in the crisis up to the advent to a treatment in 1996 and beyond.

The 150 hours of filmed testimony is the result of six years’ work by the National HIV Story Trust (NHST) and LMA archivists.

Thousands of people died from AIDS at the peak of the epidemic in the 1980s and 90s. Homophobic terms such as the “gay plague” were commonly used and Britain’s gay community faced widespread bigotry.

Paul Coleman, chair and co-founder of National HIV Story Trust, said: “The history of HIV and AIDS now spans four decades and yet, without recorded personal testimony, this was in danger of being forgotten, so we hope that the archive will prove invaluable to anyone wishing to understand the story of HIV and AIDS from a 360 degree perspective.

“The extraordinary personal experiences of all those touched by the HIV and AIDS pandemic that go to make this archive are now both preserved for future generations, and to inform the present.”

City of London’s Culture, Heritage, and Libraries Committee chairman Wendy Hyde said: “This remarkable archive of deeply personal testimony will be invaluable to anyone wanting to know more about the dreadful and far-reaching impact of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, and we owe a considerable debt of gratitude to everyone involved in this major project.”

It will be open to visitors from 10am to 4pm on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays and from 10am to 7pm on Wednesdays.

There were an estimated 1,600 people living with undiagnosed HIV in London in 2020, which is a third of all the people in the UK with undiagnosed HIV.

People can live with HIV for a long time without symptoms – though the illness can now be managed effectively with medication.