Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Thatcher: Will Do Harm

Margaret Thatcher bitterly resisted calls for a major public education campaign to counter the threat of an Aids epidemic.

Papers released by the National Archives at Kew show how the prime minister repeatedly raised objections, warning that alerting teenagers to the dangers of “risky sex” could backfire and cause “immense harm”.

She only backed down after a series of stark warnings by advisers that hundreds of thousands could become infected by the Aids virus unless people - particularly gay men and drug users - were persuaded to change their lifestyles.

The first case of Aids in the UK was recorded in 1981 and by 1986 there was growing public awareness of the spread of the disease for which there was then no known treatment.

But when Health Secretary Norman Fowler proposed a newspaper advertising campaign setting out advice on “safe sex”, Mrs Thatcher was horrified.

In particular she objected to a section entitled “What is risky sex?”

“Do we have to do the section on risky sex?” she scrawled in a handwritten note. “I should have thought it could do immense harm if young teenagers were to read it.”

She suggested the advert could even breach the Obscene Publications Act and proposed a more limited campaign based on previous public information campaigns on “venereal disease”.

“I think the anxiety on the part of parents and many teenagers who would never be in danger from Aids, exceeds the good it may do,” she wrote.

“It would be better in my view to follow the ‘VD’ precedent of putting notices in surgeries, public lavatories etc. But adverts where every young person will read and hear of practices they never knew about will do harm.” ...


Lest we forget, here's Pink News' legendary tribute, Margaret Thatcher, a controversial figure on gay issues, dies aged 87.

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