As a graduate of the 1980s London club scene, I know that I had a narrow escape from contracting HIV. I remember the stories in the early ’80s coming from San Francisco about people dying from minor ailments such as flu. It was originally thought to be something to do with taking too much amyl nitrite, or poppers. Eventually the virus was identified, but it was too late for some. Quite a few of my friends became ill, and we had many funerals in the mid-80s.
I remember the London Lighthouse project opening just down the road from my house, and Diana, Princess of Wales, came to open it. She did a huge amount to disperse the stigma. We will never forget the photograph of her holding hands with an HIV/AIDS sufferer, which made people think about how we contract AIDS and showed pure compassion for people who were ill.
I was careful, but before I had my children, I had an HIV test. The results took an agonising two weeks. I was fine. I know that people diagnosed with HIV now live long and healthy lives with the treatment currently available, but I hear anecdotally that, because of that, some people are not being sufficiently careful with their health. Two weeks ago, I took the test again in my local hospital, having been asked to do so as part of the campaign. It now takes two minutes—you get the result immediately. Nobody needs to risk contracting HIV, but if anybody does, I recommend that they spend those two minutes to save their lives and those of their loved ones.