Historical events

How accurate are the historical events in “It’s a Sin”?


Channel 4 It’s a sin, acclaimed screenwriter Russell T Davies’ latest drama examines Britain’s 1980s AIDS crisis through a quirky yet lovable circle of friendship. When writing the five-part series, Davies drew on his own experiences living in London during this time and based much of the show on actual events. But what is the historical accuracy It’s a sin? Here’s a breakdown of some of the show’s most shocking events and moments. Please note that this includes spoilers from the show.

The “Don’t Die of Ignorance” public health campaign

During a scene from the Channel 4 drama, Ritchie’s parents watch a TV commercial describing the dangers of AIDS. They barely engage, seemingly unaffected by the disturbing show. Inside, voice of actor John Hurt warns “there is now a danger which has become a threat to all of us. It is a fatal disease and there is no known cure.” A blackened gravestone engraved with the word “AIDS” then falls dramatically to the ground, followed by an information leaflet and a bouquet of flowers – the type you would expect to see at a funeral. “Don’t die of ignorance,” the voiceover concludes ominously.

The ad in question was a real ad and a regular feature on UK television throughout the 1980s and aired as part of the world’s first-ever public health campaign on HIV and AIDS.

According to the BBC, AIDS announcement: Don’t Die of Ignorance began airing in 1986 in response to the growing epidemic of HIV and AIDS in the UK. The then Health and Social Security Secretary Norman Fowler oversaw the controversial campaign, which was created by the advertising agency TBWA on behalf of the UK government.

Standard’s LGBT + helpline

In the series, Lydia West’s character Jill begins volunteering at an LGBT helpline amid her growing concerns about the HIV and AIDS crisis. The helpline pictured in the Channel 4 drama is based on Switchboard’s LGBT + helpline, the second oldest LGBT + helpline in the UK. As reported by the BBC, Switchboard began operating in March 1974 and began as a small organization run by volunteers with the aim of providing support for London’s gay community.

Throughout the 1980s, Switchboard became a leading source of information during the HIV and AIDS epidemic, offering crucial advice on how to avoid transmission of the virus, for example. During the crisis, government public health brochures containing Switchboard contact details were sent to every household in the UK, causing a significant increase in phone calls. In the years that followed, Switchboard volunteers continued to build leading HIV charities such as Terrence Higgins Trust (THT) and National AIDS Manual (NAM).

Almost 40 years after the height of the HIV and AIDS crisis, current Switchboard co-chair Tash Walker says the helpline is still very much needed today. Speaking to the BBC, Walker said: “The fact that we’re still here 45 years later, we get around 15,000 calls a year… that speaks for itself.”

Article 28

Nathaniel Curtis’ character Ash lands a job at a school, where he is instructed by his boss to remove any literature containing the promotion of homosexuality from the school library, citing “Section 28”. The clause, also called Article 28 of the Law on Local Authorities, was a law first enacted in May 1988, which stated that a local authority “shall not intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality” or “promote education in any established school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a so-called family romantic relationship. ”

According to the BBC, conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher has expressed support for Article 28. Speaking at the time, Thatcher said: “Children who have to learn to respect traditional moral values ​​learn that they have the inalienable right to be gay. All of these children are cheated on a good start in life. . “

After years of backlash and protests from LGBT + activists, the law was finally repealed in 2003.

Inpatient treatment of patients with HIV and AIDS

All along It’s a sin, several characters are hospitalized. Some are locked up in rooms and practically abandoned. At other times, nurses and doctors are shown draped in heavy PPE. Cleaning and safety precautions are extreme: scrub the beds with a fine comb. Funeral directors have refused to handle the bodies, crematoriums are pushing back people and funerals are scheduled for the middle of the night. While deeply upsetting, these on-screen portrayals closely correspond to the early days of the outbreak of the 1980s, when medical experts around the world were unsure of the disease and who was at risk.

As iNews reports, many nurses and doctors of the time refuse to treat patients with HIV or AIDS or perform post-mortem examinations on a person who has died of an AIDS-related illness, despite assurances that the virus could not be spread by touch. In 1985, the concerns of some medical workers became increasingly damaging to the fight against HIV and AIDS, prompting the Royal College of Nursing to issue a statement warning that nurses who refused to treat people with the disease. HIV or AIDS could lose their jobs.

Channel 4

In one particularly distressing scene, Colin is virtually imprisoned in the hospital, says he can’t leave and says a “enemy of public health. “This story is also the one Davies borrowed from real life.

In 1985, man with AIDS was actually jailed in a UK hospital, Monsall to Crumpsall, ”Davies told the Guardian. “At the request of the man’s consultant, a court order was granted to lock the door and deny him the right to leave. The case became one of the first militant uprisings. Homosexual groups organized and campaigned. Ten days later, the order was withdrawn. The response was only just beginning. “

The absolute level of disinformation

As the decade rolled by and HIV proliferated, we had to face terror and anger but also, more insidiously, sheer disbelief, ”Davies wrote for the Guardian. “The hysteria quickly caught fire, as fake news, false facts and conspiracy theories weren’t invented in 2020.

“It’s hard to look back and piece together the way the information was disseminated in those early days, 81, 82, before the tabloids took hold of the story. Rumors. Whispers. Whispers of America. Chat in the dark corners of pubs. A few courageous activists photocopy what little information they have; photocopied sheets that you ignore when you go out to a club. ”


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