A Quaker friend of mine now in her eighties told me how she was part of the group setting up the original AIDS support group on Merseyside. She’s told me the stories of how much of a struggle it was and the impact it had on her own life. I mention this because I attended the AGM this week of Sahir House, the charity which supports people who are HIV+ today on Merseyside.
After the business stuff, we heard about the launch of a project, called Now and Then, funded by the Heritage Lottery. It charts the stories of people diagnosed with AIDS and those who supported and raised awareness about this from the 1980s to the present day. There are some wonderfully powerful stories. One woman spoke about listening to the mums’ talk in the playground at her children’s school. ‘Who gets AIDS? I’m glad I’m not like that, they said, thinking of drug addicts and gay men they read and heard about in the papers and on TV. But how could I tell them I had just been diagnosed, me, an ordinary housewife with children at the school? I came to think they didn’t want to believe that people like us can get AIDS.’
Many, many people have come forward and told their stories to trained volunteers from Sahir House. There’s an exhibition of the project findings opening at the Museum of Liverpool on 10 October, which runs until mid-February 2015. Go along and see it to learn how people responded. The title is Then and Now but it could also be Now and Then. There is a website, a sound archive, lots of photographs and audio clippings of personal interviews; research findings. There is a documentary film and a creative writing book; the latter with a link to the WEA, as it grew out of a creative writing course we ran there.
I must tell my friend about Now and Then. Whether she tells her story is up to her, of course. I know that as well as the laughter, she also shed many tears. Will she want to remember this, record it for future generations..? Maybe, she will…
If you have a story about this period and would like to speak to someone, then contact Elaine at Sahir House (Tel 0151-237 3989) or email at email@example.com