AIDS/HIV research guide

The 1980s bore witness to the emergence of one of the most devastating health crises in modern history. Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS), caused by the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), quickly emerged as a global concern, triggering panic, challenging medical understanding, social norms and public policy. 

AIDS was first recognised in the early 1980s when a cluster of cases of a rare lung infection emerged in the United States of America. It was identified as a mysterious and deadly disease affecting gay men and other marginalised communities, such as drug users. Stigmatisation and discrimination against those affected by HIV was very prominent, often fuelled by fear and lack of knowledge. Gay men, in particular, bore the brunt of this prejudice. The lack of treatment and medical involvement only exacerbated both the social and emotional toll on patients and their loved ones. 

The initial response to the pandemic was characterised by a lack of urgency. Governments across the globe were slow to provide resources for research, prevention and treatment, fuelled in part by homophobia. Community-based organisations, often led by LGBTQ+ groups, played a critical role in shaping public perceptions, fighting stigma, providing resources and demanding government action. As the scale of the endemic grew and cases were identified beyond the initially affected groups, governments and international health organisations were forced into taking decisive action. In the UK, the National Health Service (NHS) took significant steps in providing access to testing, treatment and care through specialised clinics and public education efforts. Policy changes also played a crucial role in the UK’s response to the crisis. The government showed its commitment by passing the AIDS (Control) Act in 1987, which prohibited discrimination against individuals with HIV. The crisis did not have a definitive end, instead, it evolved over time after several medical advances, public awareness campaigns and policy changes. 

This research guide looks at the impact of AIDS/HIV in Sheffield, listing the documents that survive at Sheffield Archives and Local Studies Library that tell the local history of the epidemic.

Contact the Archives and Local Studies Library

0114 203 9395 (Sat, Mon, Tues)
0114 273 4753 (Wed, Thur, Fri, Sat)
First Floor, Central Library
Surrey Street
S1 1XZ

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