Stephen Fry: HIV and Me
The last weekend has seen a series of programmes celebrating the work of Stephen Fry on BlackAdder, Who do you think you Are? Room 101 and QI, amongst others. “HIV and Me” is the first of a two-part, frank and moving documentary presented by Stephen Fry.
Stephen explained that 23 years ago, he wanted to buy his first home and for him to get household insurance, he needed to have a blood test. As he is of a high risk group (he is open abut being gay), he was asked to have a HIV test.
At that time, there was a large publicity campaign from the UK Government with adverts on television saying that there was no treatment nor cure for AIDS and that people would die. It was a hard hitting campaign which had the effect of making everyone aware of the disease. At that time, there were two main groups affected – homosexual men and intravenous users.
Nowadays, HIV or AIDs is hardly spoken about, yet there are three times as many people who are HIV+ in Britain, than there were 10 years ago. It affects a range of people including those who are heterosexual and some people are born with HIV.
It is possible to be completely unaware that you are HIV positive, as Chris discovered. He had been seeing his girlfriend for around two years, before she revealed that she had the disease. About a year and a half after he was diagnosed, she died. He has had Shingles, Cancer and chemotherapy all as a result of being HIV+. However, was is receiving treatment and was honest about his status with new partners.
Stephen then met with an old boyfriend, Kim, from his Cambridge days. Kim was HIV positive and his partner, Alistair has died of full-blown AIDs, at the ripe old age of 34. Stephen revealed that at one time he had been attending a memorial service once a month.
During the 1980s there was a greater awareness of the disease and the death of singer, Freddie Mercury, in 1991 of AIDs had a profound effect on people with a real fear of the disease. The same could not be said today, had some people had a strange thrill from playing “Russian Roulette” with their life.
Stephen went to Manchester and observed Gordon having a HIV test. He was a gay man who had practiced unsafe sex three weeks ago, but was arrogant about not having the disease. Stephen went to the lab to find out the result – which was negative and Gordon was asked to return in 10 weeks for another test (it can take 3 months for antibodies to show up in the blood). Stephen went on to quiz Gordon, who revealed that he was drunk when he had sex with a new partner and that he hardly used condoms. Around 25,000 HIV tests are conducted each year in Manchester alone and 2,000 men contracted HIV from gay sex last year in Britain.
The programme revealed that reckless behaviour and unprotected sex accounts for Britain having one of the largest teenage pregnancy rates in Europe and an increase in sexually transmitted diseases. The programme told of a bouncer in Bradford who contracted HIV and admitted to sleeping with a different woman every night, prompting 800 phone calls from worried women.
“HIV and Me” not only focussed on the increase of the rate of the disease in the UK but also examined Zimbabwe (which has a high rate) and South Africa, where there is little education abut the disease and the Government do not believe that the HIV virus can lead to full-blown AIDs. The second part of the documentary (screened in a week’s time) will focus on how people live with the disease. More information on HIV and AIDS is available in the BBC website at http://www.bbc.co.uk/health/.