Starting on Monday 29th November to Thursday 2nd December we will be proudly supporting AIDS Awareness Week. 
AIDS Awareness Week 2021 ribbon

The most recent estimate suggests there were 105,200 people living with HIV in the UK in 2019. Of these, around 6,600 are undiagnosed so do not know they are HIV positive.  London continues to have the highest rates of HIV in the country: 36% of new diagnoses in 2019 were in London residents and 38% of people seen for HIV care were living in London.

Of the 4,139 people diagnosed with HIV in the UK in 2019, 41% were gay or bisexual men.  Of the 1,559 heterosexual people diagnosed with HIV in 2019, 37% were black African men and women.

In 2017, the overall mortality rate for people aged 15-59 who were diagnosed early was, for the first time, equal to that of the general population for the same age group. (HIV statistics | Terrence Higgins Trust)

The National Aids Trust estimates that 1 in 16 people living with HIV in the UK do not know that they have the virus. This is why the Rainbow Staff Forum are working alongside different organisations and have decided to extend World AIDS Day on Wednesday 1 December to four days.

AIDS Awareness Week 2021 logos
Here is the plan for the week

Monday 29 November -  We will focus on the history of AIDS - from the rise of the epidemic in the 1980’s to the infamous tombstone video. 

Tuesday 30 November - We will look at the portrayal of AIDS in the media and how this has changed over the years.  
Wednesday 1 December - We will commemorate those that have lost their lives to AIDS by taking part in a memorial walk and hosting a special screening of Bohemian Rhapsody at the Lighthouse Cinema in Wolverhampton.    
Thursday 2 December - We will end the week by understanding where we are today with AIDS and HIV, and how you can get tested.

How can I get involved?
  • Order a test kit from Embrace
  • Wear something red on Wednesday 1st December
  • Join us on Wednesday 1st December at 19:00 outside the Sunbeam Pub for our Memorial Walk
  • Grab some popcorn and watch the special screening of Bohemian Rhapsody at the “Lighthouse Theatre” on Wednesday 1st December at 20:15 – Book tickets online
Memorial Walk & Screening

As part of AIDS Awareness Week and to commemorate World AIDS Day we will be organising a memorial walk and special screening of “Bohemian Rhapsody” at the Lighthouse Cinema on Wednesday 1st December. This event has been organised together by City of Wolverhampton Council, Wolverhampton LGBT+ and Wolverhampton’s Methodist Church. The memorial walk will start outside of the Prince Albert.

The memorial walk is a symbol of commemoration, strength and solidarity for those that have lost their life due to HIV and AIDS.  

For the memorial walk we are meeting outside Prince Albert at 7:00pm. We will then walk through the city as a group as part of our memorial walk which will last for 30 minutes. We will our walk at the Lighthouse Cinema where a special screening of the film is being shown. We are encouraging those who come on the memorial walk to wear a red ribbon or something red to wear to show your support for World AIDS Day.  

The Lighthouse Cinema in conjunction with City of Wolverhampton Council are hosting a special screening of the film “Bohemian Rhapsody” which tells the story of Freddie Mercury, the legendary frontman of Queen. One review of the movie said,  “With his impeccable vocal abilities, Freddie Mercury and his rock band, Queen, achieve superstardom. However, amidst his skyrocketing success, he grapples with his ego, sexuality and a fatal illness.”

The cost for the special screening is £5.00 (plus £0.60 booking fee).  You can purchase tickets in advance or purchase them on the day.  

If you have any questions at all about either the memorial walk, or screening please email  

More Information

For more information, please visit or contact

Monday - History of HIV and AIDS

History of HIV and AIDS

This week we are proudly supporting AIDS Awareness Week. The Rainbow Staff Forum, alongside different organisations and have decided to extend World AIDS Day (Wednesday 1st December) to four days this week where we will be understanding where we are today with AIDS and HIV.  But before we can look at the present, it is important to understand the past and the history of this epidemic which has which has resulted in over 30 million lives being lost.   

On 5th June 1981, the world changed forever when the first cases of what would later become known as Human Immuno-Deficiency Virus (HIV) were clinically reported in the United States.  

Five people showed symptoms of a rare,  killer infection called pneumocystis pneumonia (PCP) known only to occur in people with very compromised immune systems.  Nobody knew it then, but this report of the men’s illnesses and deaths marked the beginning of the AIDS crisis. It was a dark day that changed the world forever 

Soon after, eight cases of a rare skin cancer called,  Kaposi’s sarcoma, were reported in the medical journal The Lancet in New York.  
The condition only seemed to affect gay men leading the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to refer to the outbreak as Gay Related Immune Deficiency (GRID) stigmatising the gay community as carriers of the deadly disease. The CDC first used the term - Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) in autumn 1982. While primarily affecting gay men in the early days, the virus spread rapidly to recipients of blood transfusions, intravenous drug users and, curiously, Haitians leading to the derogatory term ”4H Club” (homosexuals, haemophiliacs, heroin users & Haitians). 

The first UK cases were identified in December 1981.  On 12 December 1981, a 49-year-old gay man died in Brompton Hospital due to an AIDS-related illness, becoming the first death from the disease in the UK. He was a frequent visitor to the US.

In July 1982, DJ and Hansard reporter,  Terry Higgins died of what we now refer to as an AIDS-related illness. A charity was established in Terry’s name (Terrence Higgins Trust) which aimed to   raise much needed awareness among affected communities, to fund research, and  to fight for the proper governmental response required to stem the tide of lives lost.  

Meanwhile, there was widespread media coverage of the mysterious new condition called AIDS provoking widespread hysteria and misinformation in relation to transmission and victimisation of HIV infected persons as having ‘good’ AIDS – innocent victims who received infected blood through transfusions and ‘bad’ AIDS – gay men and drug users who “deserved” it. In 1983, scientists discovered the virus behind the epidemic , and it wasn’t until 1986 that the virus was named as Human Immuno-Deficiency Virus (HIV). In 1987, a huge public information campaign was under way in the UK. Leaflets were sent to every household warning the public,  Don’t Die of Ignorance. With no cure, prevention was the message.  In the process, TV adverts and leaflets frightened a generation of people and deeply entrenched stigma and misinformation about AIDS that is now outdated. 

In April 1987, Diana, Princess of Wales, opened the first dedicated HIV and AIDS ward at Middlesex Hospital in London. In front of the world's press, she held the hand of a man who lived with HIV. At the time people were under the impression that HIV and AIDS could be transmitted through touch.   The small act of Diana holding the hand of someone living with HIV with no gloves on, changed attitudes throughout the UK towards people with HIV and AIDS.  By this time, AIDS was a worldwide epidemic with cases on every continent. The first antiretroviral drug, AZT, was approved by the US Food & Drug Agency (FDA) and the first needle exchange in the UK was opened in Dundee in an effort to restrict transmission through the reuse of needles between intravenous drug users.

The 1st December 1988 marked World AIDS Day which was the  first ever global health day.

In 1990 the UK soap EastEnders brought HIV to the masses with a storyline involving character called Mark Fowler who tested positive for HIV after being infected by his girlfriend.  This challenged stereotypes that  HIV was not restricted to ‘gays’ and ‘junkies’.

In 1991 Freddie Mercury, the lead singer of the rock band Queen, became the first high-profile person to die of an AIDS-related illness in the UK. He died of bronchopneumonia a day after revealing he had AIDS.  In the same year NBA basketball star, Magic Johnson, announced he was HIV-positive.

Just two years later in 1993, the film Philadelphia was released, one of the first mainstream Hollywood movies to have a storyline based around the condition.   The film features Tom Hanks as a lawyer dismissed from his job for having AIDS and Denzel Washington as the lawyer who takes on his case for justice.

It took until 1996,  15 years and millions of deaths later, for effective treatment to be found to protect the immune systems of those who contracted HIV with a combination of multiple antiretroviral drugs, known as highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART).  The medical progress in the fight against HIV has been rapid and one of the biggest successes of modern medicine – transforming an HIV diagnosis from a virtual death sentence to a manageable long-term condition.

In 2010 The Equality Act 2010 was enacted in England, Scotland, and Wales. Under the act, HIV became one of a few conditions which is considered a disability from the point of diagnosis.  This means that people living with HIV are protected from discrimination and it is illegal to discriminate against a HIV-positive person at work, in education, when renting or buying property, or when providing goods, facilities or services.
UNAIDS (the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS) established the global 90-90-90 targets in 2014, which aimed to have 90 per cent of all people living with HIV be diagnosed, 90 per cent of those diagnosed to receive HIV treatment, and 90 per cent of those receiving treatment to achieve viral suppression by 2020.

The UK met and exceeded the UNAIDS targets for 2020. Of the estimated 105,200 people living with HIV in the UK in 2019, 94 per cent of them are diagnosed, 98 per cent of those diagnosed are on treatment, and 97 per cent of those on treatment are virally suppressed.

However, this still means that around one in 16 people living with HIV in the UK do not know that they have the virus.

Today in the UK we are  targeting the end of new HIV cases within the decade. We have highly effective ways of preventing new infections through the use of PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis, using a drug intended to treat HIV infection which can also prevent infection occurring), testing for and treating HIV. 

HIV infection is now a manageable condition with medication able to reduce the viral load in a person to undetectable levels meaning that person cannot pass on the virus.

However, access to those interventions is a privilege not afforded to many parts of the world. Treatments and education programmes widely available in Western Europe, Australasia and North America are expensive and difficult to distribute in South East  Asia, Africa and South America where HIV stigma and discrimination remain a huge barrier to further progress. 

In 2020, an estimated 37.7 million people are living with HIV. 1.5 million are new infections and 680,000 have died. (

Tuesday - HIV & AIDS on the Screen

As part of AIDS Awareness Week (29th November – 2nd December) we will be sharing with you the journey from where we have come from to where we are now.  Today our article focuses on HIV and AIDS within the media.

HIV & AIDS have fallen off the radar in recent years especially since the Covid pandemic took hold two years ago. In Western Europe, North America and Oceania education, prevention and treatment are widely available and successful in moderating infection and increasing survival rates.  However, this wasn’t always the case and those successes are not mirrored in much of the developing world including South America, Africa and South-East Asia.

Following the initial confusion and hysteria, the subject of HIV started to be addressed in entertainment media. This was deemed a ‘brave’ step at the time when HIV infection was largely associated with homosexuality and intravenous drug users. Few celebrities even admitting being gay, let alone disclosing their HIV status. It was only when well known and loved icons of entertainment such as Rock Hudson and Freddie Mercury revealed their HIV status and ultimately died because of it, that it became more tolerated, and AIDS was no longer a dirty word. 

One of the first films made about HIV was An Early Frost starring Aidan Quinn. This was a TV movie released in 1985 and winner of three Emmy awards. It’s the tale of a young man diagnosed with HIV and subsequently has to divulge that he has an incurable disease to his parents.  

This theme of coming out, living with and subsequently dying of HIV/AIDS pervaded similar movies of the period which wasn’t unexpected given the circumstances at that time. Parting Glances and Longtime Companion, for which Bruce Davison was Oscar nominated and won the Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor.  Another movie based on this theme also included And The Band Played On featuring Ian McKellen, Lily Tomlin, Alan Alda and Matthew Modine.

HIV hit the mainstream in 1993 with the release of Philadelphia starring Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington.  Hanks won an Oscar for the role where he played a lawyer fighting an unfair dismissal case against his employer with Denzel Washington as his homophobic legal counsel.

In the UK, Eastenders was the first soap to feature an HIV positive character with Mark Fowler contracting HIV from a female sexual partner and did much to address issues including transmission, drug therapies, safe sex and prejudice. 

Two recent TV mini-series have featured HIV strongly in their story lines. Channel 4’s It’s a Sin is set in early 80s London following a group of friends affected by HIV. It highlights the confusion, ignorance and prejudices of the time from the denial of its existence and the campaign, largely spear headed by ACT-UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) to treat patients with dignity and provide medical care. 

Another contemporary series currently available on iPlayer is Pose which follows the underground black & Hispanic trans and gay community in New York. Although not about HIV per se, HIV features strongly in the story lines as the disease takes its inevitable toll on the cast’s circle of friends, the denial of treatment with patients left unattended due to the fear and stigma of HIV infection. Both series feature this element of the extreme prejudice and ignorance of the period in hard hitting scenes of patients being abandoned and kept isolated.

Today there are efficient treatments available and HIV education and treatment have fallen by the wayside, particularly with the current Covid-19 pandemic. Sensational and hard hitting stories are relegated to historical perspectives but even now, those prejudices still exist. An article by the BBC described how a young person living with HIV was vilified after describing his life on social media.

It’s chilling that even now in the 21st century, a person can still be treated with such contempt simply for having an illness.

Wednesday - World AIDS Day

As part of AIDS Awareness Week (29th November – 2nd December) we will be sharing with you the journey from where we have come from to where we are now.  Today our article focuses on World Aids Day.   

Today (1st December) is World AIDS Day which first started in 1988 to show solidarity with all people who were affected by HIV and to remember those who had died from this illness, World AIDs Day was the first international health awareness campaign. 

Later, in 1991 the red ribbon was adopted as the global symbol to show support for those affected by HIV. Despite advances in detection, treatment and understanding the virus, HIV continues to infect 1.5m people annually and an estimated 37.7 million people were living with HIV in 2020.
Even before World AIDS Day, commemorative activities had started weeks before to remember those lost, of which the AIDS Quilt is probably most well-known. Now forming part of the National Aids Memorial in the US, the quilt was first shown in October 1987 with 1920 panels. The following year 8,288 panels formed the quilt and by 1992 panels from 28 other countries were also included demonstrating that this was not a US only issue, not a gay men’s issue but affected everyone across all nations. Today the quilt contains 50,000 panels and weighs 54 tons. Yes 54 tons. Every name is important to someone. Every panel is a loss of a loved one. 

Many celebrities have succumbed to this illness over the years including Freddie Mercury of Queen; the actors Rock Hudson & Anthony Perkins; radio DJ & TV personality Kenny Everett; tennis player Arthur Ashe; artist Andy Warhol; Creedence Clearwater Revival’s Tom Fogerty. Rudolph Nureyev. Derek Jarman. Liberacé. Those of a certain age will remember the 70s sitcom ‘The Brady Bunch’. Robert Reed who played father Mike Brady died of AIDS related cancer in 1992. 

Because of the stigma attached to a HIV diagnosis, most kept it a secret. Today many celebrities are more open about their condition, increasing public awareness and dispelling the ‘gay death sentence’ myth. 

Basketball legend ‘Magic’ Johnson disclosed his status in 1991 and continues to live a healthy life. Similarly, the rugby player Gareth Thomas,  actor Charlie Sheen and musician Andy Bell have made discussing   living with HIV more open and more accessible.

Eazy-E, was a member of the Los Angeles-based hip-hop group N.W.A and was known as “The Godfather of Gangsta Rap" said, “I just feel I've got thousands and thousands of young fans that have to learn about what's real when it comes to AIDS Like the others before me, I would like to turn my own problem into something good that will reach out to all my homeboys and their kin. Because I want to save their asses before it’s too late. I have learned in the last week that this thing is real, and it doesn’t discriminate. It affects everyone.” 

Eazy-E died in 1995, one month after receiving a diagnosis of AIDS.

This 1st December we show our support to those living with HIV and we remember the lives,  of all those who have died of this illness over the last 40 years. All 36.3 million of them.