Investigating responses to AIDS in the late 1980s

Show Navigation

By | From the Collections

Red ribbon, 2001 Wellcome Images No. L0030703

Red ribbon, 2001
           Wellcome Images No. L0030703

Two small archive collections that have just been made available provide rather different insights as to the impact of the AIDS/HIV epidemic on different populations in the UK by the end of the 1980s, the decade in which it first became perceived as a problem and pervasively associated with gay men. These collections were both received from ESDS [Economic and Social Data Service] Qualidata at the University of Essex, which acquires digital data created during the course of qualitative research across a wide range of social science disciplines, and passed on the non-digital materials generated by these projects to the Wellcome Library.

GC/252, ‘AIDS-relevant cognitions in Dundee and Kirkaldy’, consists of transcripts and some tapes of semi-structured anonymised interviews conducted with school children and university students in those towns, 1988-1990. These were intended to elicit their understanding of AIDS and their attitudes towards it.

GC/260, ‘Project SIGMA (Socio-sexual Investigations of Gay Men and Aids)’, consists of microfiche copies of anonymised diaries (only age and occupation were recorded) of sexual behaviour kept by gay and bisexual men, in connection with this longitudinal survey conducted 1987-1994, along with some associated documentation. The diaries were developed as a method within Project SIGMA (which was supported by grants from the Medical Research Council, the Economic and Social Research Council, and the Department of Health) to provide unique and detailed information about gay and bisexual men’s sexual activity and the contexts within which it occurred. Diary keepers were asked to keep a diary on a daily basis for the period of a month, referring not only to the partner/s involved but also to the day, time and setting in which the sexual activity occurred. The data give information on the sequence in which things happened, on the roles (solo/active/passive/mutual) taken. If ejaculation occurred, its destination (in/on a partner, into a condom) was also noted. Any use of toys, “poppers”, drugs etc. were recorded in the context in which they were used. Recall biases were lessened because diaries were filled out on a daily basis. Further information of Project Sigma and the sexual diaries as a research method can be found at its website.

These collections add to the already significant holdings in the Wellcome Library relating to AIDS/HIV and the medical and social responses. There is a substantial collection of AIDS ephemera, and a very large collection of public health posters from all over the world, most of which have been digitised and can be seen in Wellcome Images

Lesley Hall

Lesley Hall

Lesley Hall, FRHistS, PhD, DipAA, has been an archivist at the Wellcome since 1979. She has published extensively on the history of sexuality and gender in Britain in the 19th and 20th centuries, given many talks and conference presentations, and featured on radio and television. Further details can be found at her website.

See more posts by this author

Comments are closed.

Related Blog Posts