Saturday, 1 December 2012

466: AIDS 2 - A Talking Point

By the end of 1984, AIDS has become a fixture of conversation, an imminent concern, an object of speculation and ill-informed speculation, but now part of the casual cultural landscape – something that we don’t know much about but which something must be done if civilisation isn’t to reach some catastrophic tipping point.


Auberon Waugh’s Diary
Private Eye 28 December 1984

Poor Ken Livingstone made a fairly average joke about AIDS to some students, and now everyone is complaining his jokes are not good enough. He was asked how he planned to save the GLC and replied: "We're going to bring over some poor unfortunates who suffer from AIDS and get them to work through the House of Commons…"

Immediately the local Lesbian and Gay Society was up in arms: "AIDS is not a laughing matter," claimed a spokesman. "Mr Livingstone was well out of order and those comments were in very poor taste". Well, perhaps it was not one of Ken's best jokes. We all have our better and our less good efforts. But ratepayers are getting above themselves if they expect and absolute sizzler every time.


Great Bores of Today
Private Eye, 22 February 1985

Proof for my thesis.


By David Haldane
Private Eye, 14 June 1985

Well, precisely. Making them backwoodsmen only adds an additional layer of incongruity, rather than the expected “what’s the news of the world?”


Auberon Waugh’s Diary
Private Eye 6 September 1985

Sitting in the warm sunshine on the garden bench in southern France while lizards play at my feet and larks sing merrily in the air above, I'm idly turning over the pages of the Daily Telegraph airmail edition when my eyes fall upon this headline:

"Anger at 'monstrous' claim that Earl of Avon died of AIDS"

Political colleagues and friends expressed shock yesterday at a report – described as 'monstrous' by the Government Chief Whip – that the Earl of Avon, son of the late Conservative Prime Minster, formerly Anthony Eden, died of AIDS.

It all seems most unlikely. Hereditary peers normally have an in-built resistance to such infections which explains, in part. the survival of the House of Lords. But poor Lord Avon was not, perhaps, a member of one of our noblest families, being the younger son of a political first generation. Now the earldom has died with him. If AIDS is really going to start wiping out the peerage, it is plainly time I rushed home to fight the good fight.

An odd aspect of the disease is how the medical profession seems unconcerned by it. Only an occasional doctor, like John Seale in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine breaks ranks to give us sensation-seekers what we want to hear.

"Such a virus could produce a self-sustaining epidemic. It could lead to la lethal pandemic throughout the crowded cities and villages of the Third World of a magnitude unparalleled in human history. This is what the AIDS virus is now doing."

Even he does not dare mention the threat to our beloved House of Lords for fear of mass hysteria and panic. Now the Government's Chief Medical officer, Dr Donald Acheson, claims the illness is so unimportant that there is no need to tell your wife about it, let alone leave your job.

But the oddest thing is the silence of the BMA fanatics and Moral Re-Armers. Every week they shriek and groan about the dangers of smoking ro drinking. They have insisted that every cigarette packet carries a health warning and are now campaigning for a ban on all cigarette advertising. but not a whisper from them about the dangers of homosexuality, or an suggestion that homosexual advertising should be discouraged. What on earth is happening?

When I come to power every bottle of Eau Savage Cologne, every pair of leather jodphurs or "chaps" sold will carry a notice:

DANGER Government Health WARNING


The above is doubly noteworthy, since the next issue featured the following letter:

Private Eye 20 September 1985

Waugh on AIDS


Auberon Waugh is quite right in observing that most doctors are strangely silent on the seriousness 0f the AIDS epidemic, but the reason is not that they do not recognise it, nor that they are indifferent, but that it is very difficult to know what effective action can be taken. Tow things are clear, however. First, and most important, homosexuals must come to terms with the scale and urgency of the problem as quickly as possible, and any campaign must therefore be mounted with their active assent and collaboration. They are understandably obsessed with the anti-gay backlash that AIDS is already generating, and this red herring is a major obstacle to their acceptance of wide-spread confidential blood-testing. Such testing must be the backbone of any effective control measures, as the number of individuals infected is probably at least 50 times the number with AIDS. Secondly, the general public should be made aware that the risk from non-sexual contact, and even to children of women with AIDS who were born before their mothers became infected, is very low. The main effect of the prevalent paranoia about lavatory seats and coffee cups is to make a reasoned approach to the homosexual community even more difficult. I suppose it is too much to ask the EYE for a moratorium on gay-bashing, but AIDS is a uniquely serious issue, and you could at least tone it down a bit.

Yours sincerely,

Julian Peto

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