Newly declassified British documents are showing that Britain’s former Prime Minister Margret Thatcher opposed an early HIV awareness campaign that could have saved thousands of lives because it mentioned anal sex.
Documents released by the National Archives show that the then health secretary Norman Fowler proposed in February 1986 to publish full-page adverts in national newspapers explaining that unprotected anal intercourse carried one of the highest risks of transmission.
The Prime Minister expressed concern that it risked corrupting public morals. Annotating a memo describing the campaign, Mrs Thatcher wrote: “Do we have to have the section on risky sex? I should have thought it could do immense harm if young teenagers were to read it?”
Mrs Thatcher asked for an investigation into whether the adverts might breach the advertising code as well as the Obscenity Act. When the answer came back that the campaign was legal, she said: “I remain against certain parts of this advertisement. Adverts where every young person will read and learn of practices they never knew about will do harm.”
Sir Norman wrote back: “Unless there is a reference to anal intercourse, which has been linked with 85 per cent of Aids cases so far, the advertisement would lose all its medical authority and credibility.”
Fortunately Norman Fowler stood firm and full page national newspaper adverts, billboards, TV adverts and leaflets went to every home through the course of the plague warning of the risks of certain kids of and unprotected sex.
Meanwhile in the United States, Ronald Reagan stayed silent.
Margret Thatcher did her best to continue to ignore the disease.
Thatcher and Reagan were a match made in hell and neither were particularly concerned with saving lives, but rather with some obscure and inaccurate notion of public “propriety.”
Ding dong the witch is dead. Indeed