The AIDS Epidemic

21 March 2023

In the 1980s, the AIDS epidemic brought illness and death with a disproportionate impact on gay men, as well as fear, hostility, discrimination and stigma. The Unitarian Women’s League vocally supported an AIDS charity, helping Unitarians to bring discussion about AIDS into the open.

Ann Peart, interviewed February 2023:
“I did quite of lot of AIDS funerals, and it was moving to do funerals for people younger than myself. The Lesbian and Gay Bereavement project was started by Dudley Cave and Bernard Williams, with help from Keith Gilley and the Golders Green congregation. That was really significant – it was a time when, quite often, young men died from AIDS and their partners were not recognised by their families and so were excluded from their funerals. I think we did a lot of good work.” 

Jeff Gould, interviewed February 2023:
As a gay man, a lot of [AIDS – based] prejudice was projected onto me, a lot of fear from people, and it wasn’t the best time to be openly gay at Oxford even within the college – it did lead to conflict.”

“[The Lesbian and Gay Switchboard] was a wonderful portal for many people all over the country to get up to date, correct, information, without any judgement – advice on health and law and coming out. Dudley Cave was one of the pioneers, an ‘out and proud’ Unitarian and always grounded his social action in his faith.

It would be easy to lose sight of the fact that whilst other denominations were being very condemning and very hesitant and very negative about all the issues related to lesbian and gay issues, the general assembly was consistently progressive and advanced the cause.”