Margaret Thatcher Vetoed HIV / AIDS Awareness Show “But She Was Not a Fanatic”

Margaret Thatcher personally vetoed a TV show aimed at raising awareness about HIV / AIDS, but not because she was a bigot or prejudiced, according to her former health secretary.

Norman Fowler said neither Number 10 nor the Treasury saw the issue as a priority in the mid-1980s, despite the growing number of AIDS-related deaths recorded in the UK at that time.

Lord Fowler, who was Secretary of Health and Social Security from 1981 to 1987, started the government campaign “Aids: Don’t die of ignorance” in 1986, but was told that a government television show was out of the question.

Giving evidence to the infected blood investigation at Aldwych House in central London, Lord Fowler particularly criticized the Treasury for refusing to provide additional funding to his department specifically for HIV / AIDS awareness.

He said: “The Treasury felt it wasn’t spending more money and if it could make cuts it would, it’s not a social department.

“Most of the AIDS campaign, remember, we had to make do with the resources of the department. [of health and social security]. We have not received any additional money from the Consolidated Revenue Fund. The Treasury was completely unmoved about all of this.

“What totally reassured them was that No.10 and the Prime Minister did not consider it a priority either – if the Prime Minister had considered it a priority, things probably would have been. slightly different, but she didn’t.

“I even remember things that wouldn’t even cost money: We wanted to do a ministerial program on AIDS. The [Ministerial Cabinet Committee on AIDS] under Willie Whitelaw, and all the other cabinet ministers agreed, but that required the PM’s advice – usually cabinet broadcasts needed her to say it.

“She greeted me on New Years Eve all the time and said she was not ready to give that authority – so no ministerial statement was made. We had the offer of a ministerial statement on all of television and [shadow health secretary] Michael Meacher to his great merit agreed he didn’t want any response so it was absolutely cut and dry but he was opposed by No.10. So if I say it wasn’t a priority for the Treasury or besides n ° 10 that was exactly what the position was.

Asked by lead counsel for the investigation, Jenni Richards QC, whether this was due to bigotry or prejudice on Ms Thatcher’s part, Lord Fowler said: “I don’t know about this. I’m not sure she would have been influenced by this. The Treasury will use any argument if it manages to cut spending. “

Lord Fowler, now 83, told a 2017 documentary on the 50th anniversary of the partial decriminalization of homosexuality in England and Wales that Mrs Thatcher told him: “I had no ministerial show on the Falklands War, I’m definitely not going to have one on AIDS.

He also said that Mrs Thatcher had treated the matter “as a scientist, as it was”. In an excerpt from his diaries, dated November 27, 1986 and shown at the Inquiry, Lord Fowler wrote that Mrs. Thatcher “asks good questions [about Aids] and shows a broad understanding of the disease and what needs to be done to prevent it ”.

The survey investigates how and why men, women and children in the UK have received infected blood products, which has led to thousands of people contracting HIV, AIDS and / or hepatitis over the years. 70 and 80. About 2,400 people died.

Lord Fowler said the AIDS awareness campaign he launched was a huge success and cited results from the British Market Research Bureau which showed that the proportion of people claiming to know something about AIDS has doubled, from 44 to 94%. The researchers concluded that the campaign “substantially achieved the goals of educating the public and influencing the climate of opinion on the basis of behavior change.”

On the second day of his testimony, Lord Fowler told the inquest that the mere recognition of AIDS not only helped to raise awareness but also to reduce the number of deaths, stressing that the approach taken by the US President to l The time, Ronald Raegan, by “ignoring” the problem had had devastating consequences.

He said: “We tried to do it the best we could without – certainly not demonizing people with HIV. I spent most of my time giving interviews saying that was not the point of what we were doing. Sometimes it must have seemed, I suppose, to some people with HIV that this was a pretty difficult message, but it was by no means an inaccurate message: we said it could be your death. Well, it could be your death, that was the problem. There weren’t really any effective drugs back then, so what would a sane government want to do?

“You could like Ronald Reagan did in the United States – say nothing at all – and you had the most incredible epidemic as a result of that or you could try to attack it head on. “We have probably taken more head on than any other country in Europe. The effect has been, according to estimates, that we have saved thousands of lives as a result.

“The number one priority remained to try to prevent this fate from befalling other people, while respecting and defending the position of people living with HIV and AIDS. I continue to do this and will continue to do so for as long as I am here.

The hearing continues.


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