THE LOG BOOKS
Season 2 Episode 3 - “Damage Caused”
Presenters: Tash Walker, Adam Smith
Producers: Shivani Dave, Tash Walker, Adam Zmith
Music: Tom Foskett-Barnes
Artwork: Natalie Doto
TW: This episode contains stories about illness, death, archaic language and ill-treatment and discrimination of people living with HIV and AIDS, which are terms used interchangeably in the logbooks and this episode, because of the time period.
Unknown: This is the logbook entry from July 6th 1985 at 2:50. A Sunday Express reporter called to say that he was working on a story about a phone call threatening that an AIDS sufferer would inject his blood in food in a Safeway’s supermarket. Said police were taking the threat seriously.
Unknown: This is a logbook entry from January the 24th 1987. The volunteer who took the call was Neil. 2am, Vauxhall Tavern raided by police. Some twenty to thirty. Some in plain clothes, some wearing rubber gloves. No apparent reason for raid. Several arrests. Two callers phoned on behalf of friends by 3am. 4:40am, twelve reported arrested. Most released.
TW: That first entry just leaves me speechless. We talked about police raids a lot in season one and, as is apparent here, it continues on into the eighties with rubber gloves.
AZ: Yeah the Royal Vauxhall Tavern wasn't the only place raided around this time. I didn't know that until we started working on this episode, and surgical gloves, especially, were a police tactic used in the USA and the UK. It just feels really bizarre to imagine the police wearing gloves like that. To think, you know, were they fuelled by ignorance about how HIV was transmitted or was it an actual intention to insult?
AZ: You're listening to The Log Books, stories from Britain's LGBTQ+ history and conversations about being queer today.
TW: In partnership with Switchboard, the LGBT+ helpline. In this season we're reading through the notes made by the volunteers who took calls between 1983 and 1991.
AZ: And all of our conversations are led by these logbook entries. I'm Adam Zmith.
TW: And I’m Tash Walker.
AZ: Episode three, ‘Damage Caused’.
TW: This episode is going to be about the way HIV and AIDS led to hostility and discrimination.
AZ: It's the third of our three episodes about HIV and AIDS this season and we're going to hear from people who experienced the fresh wave of discrimination against LGBTQ+ folks, due to the HIV epidemic. A very special switchboard volunteer and also Elaine and Lyn, who you might remember from season one.
TW: Yeah, they met, went for a night out at Gateway, danced to Willow [by Joan Armatrading], and of course have been together ever since.
AZ: But they've got a story to start off this episode from the mid-eighties regarding one of their other favourite social spots.
Elaine: Stallions was in a sort of backstreet off of Tottenham Court Road, and I didn't know what to expect. I just remember going in there, and it was quite dark initially, coming into a sort of brighter area and there was just this really happy buzz about it. Music, Laughter, people knowing each other. I can remember clearly this woman, whose probably about my age now in her seventies, with all these gay men and being twirled around. It was just quite mesmerising. Really it was quite old-fashioned music and they served tea and sandwiches as part of the entrance of a few pounds. It was just a delight, so it became a very, very regular Sunday afternoon event.
Lyn: Elaine took me there, Sunday afternoon, I didn't really know what to expect. We queued to get in and we went down the steps. It was really buzzy and you could have a cuppa tea, there was many cups of tea or coffee. There was always a plate of sandwiches and cake and the music would start, the dancing, and it was just, wow, miles and miles away from where I'd come two days before from up in Derbyshire and I just, I loved it.
Elaine: I can remember at the time there were quite a lot of transsexuals and transvestites and when I, I didn't really understand how things worked in those days, but obviously I think there were probably quite a lot of couples where the woman was a heterosexual and the husband had transitioned, and that was quite common. I would say that was predominantly, one of the places probably, where they enjoyed going and that’s sort of my experience of that. And there were just all these wonderful good-looking gay men that jived, [Yeah, and the couples], it was fantastic, you know, and I do remember one of them saying once that he just lived for the afternoon, because he was married, and he knew he could come out and dance and just be free, for these few hours, which I have never forgotten that because it was such a touching thing and I could really relate to it.
Lyn: Could have stayed there all night but, unfortunately, had to leave probably about seven o'clock and then I would drive back up to Derbyshire for work the next morning. One weekend, I came down to London and we were going to Stallions, and we queued up to get in and then they said, ‘no it's closed’, and we found out that it had been closed down because during the week, the police had raided it. They'd gone in with their rubber gloves and goodness knows what they were looking for, but they closed it down immediately. And so, that was a sad time. There were a couple of other venues, I think that probably happened to one in Leytonstone. So, there was a darkening of the atmosphere I think for gay people. I just remember the whole thing going underground and it being very different.
TW: So, can you tell me a bit more about the RVT raid Adam?
AZ: I actually can Tash, because I started to get a bit obsessed with it when we noticed it in the logbook and I looked deeper and further and there's a little bit written about it, a little bit known about it. There was actually an initial raid in 1986, in the December, where police seized poppers and then they came back again in January ‘87 and arrested people and that was the raid where they were wearing rubber gloves. And the BBC made a documentary about it at the time featuring Helena Kennedy interviewing the Chief Superintendent of Kennington police and people that were in the bar on the night that it was raid, including a guy called Ken Comish, who talks about his experience of saying something like, ‘why are the police wearing gloves? We haven’t all got AIDS’, and then getting arrested for being drunk and disorderly because he said that. And he also said that he had lost his job as a chef when customers had basically complained to the manager that they had a chef that was HIV positive.
TW: Oh my god, I didn't know that, [yeah], because it's just like the logbooks show that, you know, this kind of discrimination was seen across every part of everyday lives from, you know, that story there with Ken from employment to insurance health and, as George reads in this next logbook entry, gay clubs.
AZ: Right, and this entry is about the club, Bolts, which actually was the location of the after party to the Conway Hall conference about AIDS that we mentioned in episode two.
GH: This is a log book entry from May 15th 1985. Saturday, 23rd, evening around thirty men bottled members and guests entering Bolts nightclub, shouting abuse in connection with AIDS. Damage caused but nothing serious to individuals.
MT: This is a logbook entry from the 21st of July 1988. ‘Beware, caller reports that Nottingham Special Clinic advised him to tell his employer he was HIV positive. He's now sacked, and moreover homeless, as the info was passed, what can I say?’. [Frustrated noise then laughter] wow.
GH: This is a logbook entry from November 12th, 1986. ‘I've had personal experience of insurance companies asking me about positive test results. I applied for health insurance recently and saw a copy of the questionnaire sent to my doctor. The section of other areas included reference to any recent blood tests, so, warn callers. Incidentally I got the policy without any reference to sexuality being made’.
LC: I remember I went to a dentist and I told them where I worked, just reminded me and they put a biohazard sticker on my notes. I remember that and I said at the time, ‘oh I noticed you put a biohazard sticker on my notes’, and he said, ‘well that's because we think you’re a special patient’, and I said, ‘I know what it's for’, and I said, ‘I just work on a HIV ward’.
MT: This is a logbook entry from August 23rd, 1988. ‘Paolo in Harringay area getting shit off employer for being gay and HIV positive. No joy from negotiations between front liners and T. H. T. and NowGO Employers. Gave solicitor, but if he calls again, please give him anything else, the situation seems appalling. English not first language’. And this is from 1988, you know, things have improved and, you know, lovely Paolo would be protected under The Equalities Act but, again, you know, we still hear stuff like this happening, and it was rampant then, it was rampant back in this time. Again, you know, really pleased to see how Switchboard respond. The important thing about English not being the first language and making sure that people support him. Because this is thirty-two years ago, and if I can just kind of relate it to Covid, recently, so I was speaking to colleagues at Positively UK just as lockdown was happening and I asked, you know, what are some of the key issues because I was creating a webinar for ‘pos’ people and I was finding out the key issues, and actually, you know, with the lockdown and shielding, some people are going to work and are disclosing for the first time and they’re getting shit from their employers and they don't know what to do, and but like, this is 20- I mean I wasn't surprised you know, it was 2020, employers don’t know, but what was really good, was that Positive UK were able to give these people advice and say, under The Equalities Act, you're protected and you didn’t have to disclose, and blah blah blah. So, they’ve come leaps and bounds and I think, we as a community, have come so much further. We're empowered, our organisations are empowered, to make sure that we are giving people the tools to push back if they need to. So, if Paolo had called up today, we’d be able to go, ‘ok you’re protected, we’ve got you’.
Unknown: This is a logbook entry from April 27th, 1987. Re: Burlington Health Club. ‘Caller claims that staff made remarks about his race. He says they inquired about his age and his right of residence in the UK. They went on to ask about AIDS and any other diseases that he may have brought from abroad. White customers who arrived after him were served first and not subjected to interrogation. When caller said that he was referred by London Lesbian and Gay Switchboard, one member of staff said we should know better and not be so pathetic. Can we do something about this please? Personally, I feel I need no further information. I refuse to give out the Burlington as from now, and I think we should take it off our files’.
AZ: There is so much hostility and discrimination going on in this period, Tash, do we even want to know how the media was covering it?
TW: Probably not, but one of the things that definitely stands out to us, and all of our contributors remember is this, ‘gay plague’.
AZ: Are there sort of tabloid language?
TW: Super tabloid language.
AZ: Yeah. I guess more coverage for the epidemic and how it's affecting people was good in a way, because it meant greater awareness at least.
TW: Yeah definitely, but with greater awareness comes an increase in prejudice.
[TV music plays]
TV Presenter: Most of Britain's AIDS victims are homosexual man from London. Now the government is taking action to control the disease, but will the capital's gays be able to adapt to protect themselves?
[TV music fades out]
AZ: This is a clip from The London Program, broadcast in the capital by London weekend television in March 1985. It's a good example of HIV AIDS programming at the time.
[Ambulance siren sounds]
TV Presenter: In the past few weeks, Britain has been made suddenly and joltingly aware of AIDS. The stories in the popular press have made sure by now most adults have formed an impression of what AIDS is.
[Ambulance siren ends]
Unknown: This is a logbook entry from January 15th, 1987. ‘David phoned to let us know about the rather unpleasant editorial in The Sun this morning. It basically says that gay groups should not be discouraging people to have the test and that gays should be locked away to prevent the spread of this evil disease’.
MR: This is a logbook entry from June 19th, 1986. ‘The volunteer who took the call was Dennis. Caller reports that in ‘Radioactive’, a program on the BBC World Service this morning at 1:30am, there was a particularly cruel and despicable sketch on AIDS and gay men. It introduced the idea of quarantine for gay men and dresses for gay men. He rang the duty officer to complain. He urged us to do the same, in the hope that this will stop the program being repeated through the week worldwide.
Unknown: Media was very hostile for queer people in the eighties. Headlines seemed to be screaming every other day, as such a celebrity is a ‘queer’ and outing them. Horrible, you know. They’d drag them through the gutter, they would be very unpleasant. Pam St. Clement was being dragged through the gutters by the tabloids on her doorstep about being a lesbian, ‘how dare she be in a national soap opera and be a lesbian at the same time’. Yeah, there was quite a lot of that. The media was not very friendly to queer people in general. They were always attacking one group or another, and particularly men with AIDS. I remember seeing the headlines that, you know, calling it ‘the gay plague’. It was commonly referred to as ‘the gay plague’. It was quite horrible; it was horrible times to live through.
Unknown: Logbook entry 19th January 1984. Tony Conrath, who was a regular volunteer, ‘Tony Conrath has rung in to tell us that Woman's Hour is right now, doing a pretty bad scare piece on AIDS. He's ringing them to complain but it may well lead to some calls over the next few days from women and faggots listening and got the willies, drat’. And that was me and, you might be surprised at the use of the word ‘faggot’ but Switchboard, you know, I would never have used that out in the general public, but in Switchboard we called each other faggots and dykes quite happily at this stage. It was reclaiming the language, but yeah, the media, you know, would do stuff and we’d hear about it and we’d rush to get more volunteers on the phones, because we knew we’d get the calls.
TW: The press covered AIDS as a mega story, especially if it was someone remotely famous.
AZ: Yeah, well we had in episode one that note in the logbook about when Rock Hudson died in 1985. It was such a huge story and a sign for most people that something really, really big was happening.
LC: There was some A- Gays, we used to say at the time, there were some A-Gays, so they were often people who might have been well known in the media or the theatre or that sort of thing, so, the press always wanted a story, so, you know, we had to be really careful if there was an agency staff, because it might have been somebody from the press. But there would be things like, they would come and say, I felt really awful for the nurse you, they’d come and say to the nurse, or me or somebody, didn't happen to me, but they would say, ‘oh, we’ve heard some, oh we've had a delivery of some flowers’, and they’d say, ‘thank you very much’, and they’d say, ‘oh so you can confirm he’s in then’.
AZ: Tash, I guess it's time to talk about Steve.
TW: Yes, so we've heard a couple of entries in the logbooks from a volunteer called Steve.
SC: Logbook entry 3rd February 1987. ‘The one thing I really want to do right now, I can’t, that’s to talk to other antibody positive people at Switchboard. The reason I can’t? Is that I don't know who you are. Hope to hear from you soon, love, sorry no name yet’. Large pink highlighter. ‘Can we talk? What I want us to do is to organise ourselves into smallish groups meeting on a regular or an ad hoc basis in order to discuss our own feelings about AIDS, death, dying, etc. And in order to offer support to each other. I'm sorry if this has seemed a bit woolly and ill-expressed, I'm still feeling upset. Ideas, offers, help, solidarity please. Steve.
TW: So these logbook entries tell the story of Steve, a volunteer, testing positive, coming out anonymously for support.
AZ: Trying to form a group, in Switchboard, so that volunteers who are positive can support each other and hold other volunteers to account for how they handle HIV and AIDS calls.
TW: Yeah, and the last couple of entries are around the impact that it had on his life and his future.
AZ: Yeah, so here’s the last logbook entry we found from Steve, dated May 11th, 1987. ‘My dears, I was going through a phase of being grand, with a lot of sorrow and a little regret, I'm leaving Lesbian and Gay Switchboard. As I’m exempt from phone work at the moment, there will be no rota panics. As most of you know, earlier this year, I was diagnosed HIV antibody positive. At the same time, I ended a relationship of seven years standing. Consequently, I’ve had to take a long hard look at what I want out of life, and what I don’t want. One of the things I don’t want is telephone work at Lesbian and Gay Switchboard, so I’m off. Please understand as well that my employment at National AIDS helpline is almost totally unrelated with my decision to go. I say almost, because I’m writing this letter, okay the draft, only hours after finishing a body positive training weekend. The training weekend was the hardest work I’ve done in a long time, and one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done. I hadn't realised how isolated I’d been feeling. On the weekend, many, but by no means all people, were HIV positive. The diversity of sexualities is something else I enjoyed. But above all, the care, respect and love at the weekend have convinced me that the way forward for me is to join Body Positive, and if that means leaving Lesbian and Gay Switchboard, so be it. Two of the things that have affected me most deeply over the weekend; a pair of role plays that focussed on counsellors giving each other support around incipient burnout, a situation we’d both recently been in. A session on bereavement and death. I partnered with someone who’d recently lost a friend. His first bereavement due to AIDS (I’ve lost count of the number of people I’ve lost). It all gets too much, and I start crying. I'm in the middle of the room full of people crying, being cuddled’. Oh Christ. [Exhale of breath]. I hate it when it sneaks up on you like that. [Crying sounds]. The reason that got to me is, oh, oh, let’s put that to one side.
TW: Okay, we're just going to come in here. This is quite hard to hear someone breaking up during a logbook reading.
AZ: Yeah, I remember reading these stories, I mean, we read them together and talked about them together Tash, and I think we felt like we knew him. We really got to know him through these stories and then we started wondering, well, what happened to him? I just assumed that he would be gone.
TW: Yeah, I remember thinking about that too, but then after a bit of rooting around, a couple of calls, we found him in rural Wales. We really wanted to visit, to meet Steven in person and of course to interview him, but then Covid happened, but, thankfully we still got to talk to him and hear his voice on a phone call. Now Steve Craftman, is going to finish his own logbook entry, his last at Switchboard, and then, tell us more of his story.
SC: . . .I partnered with someone who’d recently lost a friend, his first bereavement due to AIDS. I’ve lost count of the people I’ve lost. It all gets too much and I start crying. I’m lying in the middle of a room full of people crying. I am being cuddled by a man I’ve only just met, knowing it’s alright to do that, while the workshop carries on around me. Later, I realise that most of us did just the same. So, it's definitely a move forward for me, although it hurts to go. You've been at Lesbian and Gay Switchboard for nearly eight years Steve, what do you expect. See you around, with love, Steve’. [Sigh]. My signature today isn’t that much different, the ‘t’ is a little more conservative. But yeah, the trail from an ‘e’ into the ‘x’ I still do. What got to me about the word ‘cuddled’, was that . . . I don’t half miss physical intimacy. I can accept the fact that I won’t meet Mr Right for a third time, but jesus do I miss a cuddle.
SC: My name’s Steve and I was the volunteer in the logbook entries. Switchboard had me for eight years, very important years. Basically, those years at Switchboard set me up for life. It was necessary for me to go. HIV narrowed my focus down to HIV and how everything branches off that. A person only has so much energy and I needed to focus my energy into people living with HIV, rather than the whole massive callers to Switchboard. Oh, when I joined Switchboard, it was all so terribly easy. People would phone up, we’d reassure them, we’d pack them off to the local gay group, or the local gay bar as appropriate, or we’d help them find accommodation, and then within a few years, we were talking life and death. I came out in August of ’76. Early hours of August the 6th to be precise. I define ‘coming out’ as being the first time I told somebody face to face. I had had a phone call to the Samaritans in the April of that year, but that doesn’t count. I used to live in Birmingham, I went there for university, did the first year, failed the first year. Decided I didn't want to. I shouldn't have gone to university in the first place but I had the offer of a resit and I decided being a student was better than being on the dole, you know, even if you just showed your face at the occasional lecture, that gave me the time to get involved in gay politics. First group I went to in Birmingham was the Gay Liberation Front, which was, had another year or so to run, at that point, and I got involved with Gay Switchboard West Midlands. I moved to London in spring of ’79, because my then partner had got a job in London. Joining London Switchboard seemed the obvious next step. My first memories of Switchboard were that it was frighteningly efficient compared to what I was used to. At West Midlands there was a single phone on a desk. At London, three phones, a long single desk that ran the length of the room, files everywhere, in dupl- in triplicates. For me, it was, Switchboard didn't really take off until ’82, ’83. I was unemployed so I was doing three, four shifts a week. The reason it took off at that time, obviously, was the impending HIV epidemic. We didn't know which way to turn first, to look after ourselves and our families of choice, to engage in political action, to disseminate what information we could find, to get to our own support groups. It was the headless chicken image. I've like a photograph memory of one night in the Two Brewers. Somebody had picked up somebody else's pint and drunk from it, realised what they’d done, threw the glass across the room, screaming, ‘I don't know what you’ve got!’. There was a sense of just, waiting to see who's next. Within Switchboard, I’d actually been at Switchboard, phoned the clinic from the office line, I said, ‘I’m phoning about my HIV test results’, and they said, ‘yes, I do have a result for you’, and the tone of voice, it was clear. At the beginning of ’87 I knew there were at least a couple of other people with HIV there. I didn't know who. Years previously we’d lost a volunteer to hepatitis, and it was almost as though he’d never been a member, it was just, ‘oh, he’s dead . . . anyway what we need to do at the next coordinating committee is. . .’ [Laughs softly]. I'd say that, as an organisation, we tried to deal with it, while simultaneously being in denial about it. After testing positive myself I wanted to form a confidential group of other positive Switchboard volunteers to share our experiences and talk about how we could use them to improve our service. Logbook entry, 3rd of February 1987. ‘The one thing I really want to do right now, I can’t, that’s to talk to other antibody positive people at Switchboard. The reason I can’t, is that I don't know who you are. I hope to hear from you soon, love, sorry no name yet’. Looking between the lines, what I was doing there was, ‘this is happened in my life, I know statistics say that I'm not the only one this is happening to, we're stronger together’. I had messages from a couple of people, from a couple of ‘pos’ people. The one that always perplexed me was, somebody said I’d been brave for writing that, and I thought, ‘how can you use that word? I didn’t put my name to it’. A few of us at least made touch in the spring of ‘87 and then I up and left in the May, so I don’t what happened after that. As you can see in the logbooks, as I become more certain of who I am, sexually, these days I go out of my way to describe myself as queer, I sort of tick the other box and write it in if necessary. Yes, it was a complicated time in my life and I think working for Switchboard is probably the most worthwhile thing I’ve done in my life. That sounds horribly schmaltzy. It was within Switchboard I had the space to explore. Basically, I had the space to explore myself, while at the same time, oh screw it, how to put it into words. Throughout the time I’ve had HIV, one of the important things to me is to humanise it. It's always important, I think, to put a name and a face on HIV. I'm wearing a t-shirt with the slogan ‘HIV positive long term survivor’. I do my shopping in that.
[soft music plays]
TW: In these three episodes about HIV and AIDS in the logbooks, we’ve covered 1983 to 1991, and you know we still got calls on this today. So we wanted to speak to a young man, diagnose more recently and living with HIV.
Hunter: It’s the kind of day that you don't ever forget. I'm Hunter. I was born in 1992 and I'm originally from West Hampstead. I was in my first year at Bristol University and I was twenty years old at the time. I went down to the Bristol University swimming pool. I remember that day, I swam more lengths than I’d ever swan before, just because I just felt like having a real kind of long swim that morning, and by the time I got back to the changing room to get out of my trunks, I check my phone and I had six missed calls from an unknown number. I went in, I was ushered through the waiting room extremely quickly as soon as I went up to the desk. I guess what happens next after that is a bit of a blur really, but the doctor was a man and he just said, ‘I'm very sorry to tell you but you have HIV, you've tested positive for HIV’. I remember just disbelief and anger, and I stood up out of my chair and I felt like I was breathless, couldn't breathe. I didn't know how to deal with that in any way. I didn't know anything about HIV. I thought he was giving it a death sentence. I don't think he'd ever diagnosed anyone with HIV before, so I think, I just left that meeting thinking, ‘you've just been given a death sentence and you're going to be dead in five years’ time or so’. It was in 2013, so, yes seven years ago, six and a half years ago. All I was aware of was that AIDS was like a killer. Yeah, my ignorance was just absolutely astonishing. I was twenty years old at the time, so went to a quiet place in the university and just cried until yeah, I eventually went for a walk around on the downs around Bristol. I tried to call my older brother first, but his phone was off, and then I called home, and my mom answered. I’d been kind of building up to this phone call for like hours basically, because I wasn't out to my family. They didn’t know I was gay and I knew it was going to be, you know, I'd have to not only come out to them as gay, but also to come out as being HIV positive. My mom answered and I just said, ‘I've just being diagnosed with HIV’. I just remember hearing her crying on the other end of the line, just this huge kind of, it was like a sort of song of death or something, this like, this you know crying, and then I remember my dad coming to the phone, and I told him and then I don’t, you know, neither of them knew what to do or say really. You know, likewise, their ignorance was as great as mine. I lost my virginity and caught HIV at the same time. I had grown up in a rural area of like the north of England, in Northumberland, where there were no other gay kids, you know, just on a one night, drunk, shag out in Sydney, I caught HIV. It was obviously really, really unlucky. I guess being quite like a fledgling gay, I definitely did have my like little wings clipped a little bit by this HIV diagnosis. When I was diagnosed in 2013, I was not able to access medication. My CD4 count was over five hundred. Five hundred seems to be about the number where, if you drop below that number, people seem to think, ‘well, your immune system doesn't function well enough, and we should probably start putting you on medication. But obviously once you start medication you can’t ever stop it, you have to stay adherent to it. My clinician in Bristol was of the opinion that, was, that as I was at university, as I was young and as I was fit and healthy, there was no need to medicate me. I think that was one of the worst decisions that happened in my whole entire experience of treatment. It's an awful thing knowing that, having this sense of self-contamination and knowing that you're, in fact, infectious and how can you ever expect to have a normal university experience or have a normal, you know, experience of someone in their early like twenties, when you can't really have sex, where, you know, the sight of like, your blood or, the sight of your semen, is, in fact, quite repulsive to you in some ways. You know, I remember being confronted by those things, you know, I blamed myself for being gay for being HIV positive and you know, an orgasm, you know, my semen was actually something that kind of kind of petrified me and I kind of thought, ‘I don't see how anyone could look at me as a someone that wasn't infectious, and something to like, be afraid of’. I remember dating this one guy, going to bed with him. We went round to his flat and he was this really handsome kind of PhD guy at Bristol. I remember being physically kind of attracted to him. I could feel that he had an erection underneath his jeans, and I just had a total panic attack and basically said, ‘I'm really sorry I’ve got to go’, and I just like got my shirt on and walked out. And again, it was that same feeling of being like in the room with the doctor and just feeling like breathless panic. Swimming has, in a way, become part of my life just in the last few years because I, last year, swam the English Channel and I suppose, yeah, I mean, I believe that I'm the first person with HIV to have swum the Channel. As far as I know [Laughs], this is the case. So I've been, I've been on medication for five years now and I get seen by an amazing team, led by Margaret Johnson, who's been working in HIV clinical research since the AIDS crisis and I'm undetectable. I take one pill a day and it’s just a part of the routine of the day that I take it in the morning. I’ve met gay men who were diagnosed in the Eighties and Nineties and I went along actually, on Dean Street, to the clinic there, to the Gay Men's group. I did feel a slight, as a slight outsider of the group, having not, I don't have that shared sense of, I guess, you know, mortality. I mean they really, they really did live through it. They lost people, they lost friends and actually for me, born in 1992, just on the eve of combinational therapy, this isn't really a history that I, well, it's a history that I know of but wasn't a lived through history. When you’ve had HIV for that long, you have so many kind of comorbidities coming into your life and, you know, things that are both mental and physical you're dealing with. It was a place that I found to be quite a depressing place and I think it's fine – I mean look, I will always advocate that there should be a place, a safe place for gay HIV positive men. I think I have a greater sense of, you know, mortality but also I think having gone through these crazy things that most normal people don’t do, which is like writing like a list thinking that they’re going to die, you know, going through these sort of circumstances I think has given me, yes, a huge sense of appreciation for not just my health, but my friends and you know the people around me, so if we do eradicate it among men who have sex with men then, I wonder how I’ll feel feeling quite, kind of, as one of the these few people with this virus, and whether that will be quite an alienating place. At the moment I, you know, I take great treatment. My life isn’t in any way affected by the virus, so I think that that was a lonely thought that I had from when I was younger was like, ‘you're going to kind of be, just quite alone in this [laughs] yeah’. In Europe and in America, HIV rates seem to be going in the right direction. I mean not necessarily among all groups, I mean, you know, that extends to different races and things. I mean, it's yeah, I think it'll be interesting to see how things turn out, you know, in years to come and whether, I'll be like a dinosaur like, this guy having HIV when no one else, [laughs], like yeah, so.
TW: We know these first three episodes of season two have been tough.
AZ: But we wanted to give the story of HIV AIDS through the log books plenty of space and time, because it is such a big part of our history and our present.
TW: And although there were some moments of lightness, we know it's been a bit heavy.
AZ: So in episode four, we’d like to have some fun [laughs].
TW: The log books are filled with funny notes and crazy calls.
AZ: So we’re dedicating a whole episode to them. That's next.
TW: Yeah? Cool.
AZ: We finished?
AZ: Calls to Switchboard are confidential so to bring The Log Books to life, we’ve changed the callers names. The Log Books is produced by Shivani Dave, Tash Walker and Adam Zmith, in partnership with Switchboard, the LGBT+ helpline.
TW: If you think other people would like The Log Books, please rate and review us on Apple Podcasts. These ratings and reviews really help others to discover the show. You can send us your feedback, and stories to firstname.lastname@example.org or join the conversation on social media with the hashtag, #TheLogBooks.
AZ: Our music is by Tom Foskett-Barnes and our artwork is by Natalie Doto. Thanks to; Stef Dickers and team at the Bishopsgate Institute, the BFI National Archive, the folks at ACast, Peter Zacaroli at West Digital, Content is Queen, the staff and volunteers at Switchboard and all the contributors who shared their stories.
TW: Switchboard continues to take phone calls from 10am to 10pm every day. If you’re affected by any of the issues in this podcast, or need to discuss anything to do with your gender identity or sexuality, you can call Switchboard on 0300 330 0630, email email@example.com or instant message via switchboard.lgbt, where you can also donate money, or time to help.