History of HIV

There is still a great deal to do. At NAT, we are working towards a future in which people living with HIV are treated as equal citizens with respect, dignity and justice, are diagnosed early and receive the highest standards of care, and in which everyone knows how and is able to protect themselves from HIV infection.



Terry Higgins is one of the first people in the UK to die with AIDS. The Terrence Higgins Trust is founded shortly afterwards.


Scottish Health Monitor is set up to co-ordinate Scotland’s response to AIDS.


The number of people diagnosed with AIDS in the UK exceeds 100. Gay men are asked to stop donating blood.


Body Positive London – a self help group – is founded. The UK Government makes millions of pounds available to fight AIDS. The Minister for Health enacts powers to keep people with AIDS in hospital against their will.


HIV is recognised by the scientific community as the virus that causes AIDS. The Government launches its Don’t aid AIDS campaign.


The Governments sends AIDS – Don’t die of ignorance leaflets to every home in the country. The BBC and ITV screen simultaneous broadcasts of a public information film: AIDS – The Facts. AZT – a drug to treat HIV – is made available. It reduces the death rate of HIV-positive people, but is unpredictable and causes severe side effects. The National AIDS Trust is founded and HRH Princess Diana opens the first HIV ward in a UK hospital and holds the hand of a patient with AIDS. The number of people diagnosed with AIDS in the UK exceeds 1,000.


A world summit on AIDS is held in London, resulting in the London Declaration on AIDS Prevention. London Lighthouse is opened by HRH Princess Margaret.



Mark Fowler, a character in the BBC soap opera Eastenders, is diagnosed with HIV. Freddie Mercury, the lead singer of rock group Queen confirms rumours that he has AIDS. He dies the following day. Diana, Princess of Wales becomes patron of NAT.


Kenny Everett, a comedian and broadcaster, and Holly Johnson, the former lead singer of pop group Frankie Goes to Hollywood, announce that they are both HIV positive. The UK Coalition of People Living with HIV (UKC) is launched.


Derek Jarman, a film director, artist and writer dies of AIDS.


The first protease inhibitor (a new class of drugs) is made available when other drug therapies fail. The number of AIDS diagnoses in the UK exceeds 10,000. Over 25,000 people in the UK are now living with HIV.


It becomes clear that combining three drugs together can significantly delay the onset of AIDS, heralding the beginning of Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy (now known as ART) which will transform the lives of many people living with HIV.


Deaths among people living with HIV fall dramatically following wider introduction of ART.


The Government announces plans to offer all pregnant women an HIV test as part of routine screening. The number of new HIV diagnoses among heterosexuals exceeds those among gay and bisexual men for the first time.



Body Positive London closes and London Lighthouse merges with THT, reflecting a big shift in the demand for support services among people living with HIV.


The first trial is held for the reckless transmission of HIV.


NAT launches Are You HIV Prejudiced? a campaign bringing attention to the stigma and discrimination still faced by people living with HIV.


Chris Smith MP announces that he is HIV-positive. At a third hearing, a man is found guilty of reckless HIV transmission and given a prison sentence. Royal Assent is given to the Disability Discrimination Act, giving legal protection to people living with HIV from discrimination, for example in the workplace.


The number of people living with HIV in the UK is estimated at 73,000. A third of those people are thought to be unaware of their infection.


The UK Coalition of People Living with HIV closes and the Terrence Higgins Trust marks its twenty-fifth year.


NAT marks its twenty-first year.

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