What we should have learnt from the Aids pandemic of the 1980s

A picture with a blue background and 5 white masks

The similarities between Aids and Covid-19 can be overdone. The two viruses are transmitted differently, and symptoms for the coronavirus materialise far faster than that of Aids. But where the comparison is most instructive is in thinking about the way in which condoms rapidly became a crucial pillar in the fight against HIV and Aids, and what lessons we can learn today as we seek to halt the transmission of Covid-19 through the widespread adoption of face coverings.

Perhaps the first thing to remember is that the success of Aids and condom campaigns had to be fought for, both by LGBT groups and certain politicians. Norman Fowler, who as Health Secretary at the time was widely credited for the UK government’s activist response, remembers having to fight or in some cases avoid Margaret Thatcher to ensure that government advice was as explicit and direct as possible.