A bit of must-see TV on ABC tonight.
Courage on the streets kept AIDS in check
IT WAS a warm November day in 1982 when a young, fit New Yorker was admitted to St Vincent’s Hospital in Darlinghurst.
After much deliberation the 27-year-old gardener, in Sydney on holidays, was diagnosed with acquired immune deficiency syndrome. Six months later, having been discharged, he was dead, and Sydney would never be the same again.
Since then AIDS has swept the world, 25 million people have died and 60 million are infected, but in Australia the death toll stands at less than 7000, and infection rates have been steadily declining for more than a decade. In some parts of the world they have soared.
Now two film-makers have made a television documentary detailing how Sydney, led by an unlikely gang of gays, prostitutes and junkies, managed to hold back the wave of death and destruction that swept over cities such as New York and San Francisco, saving tens of thousands of lives.
The film, Rampant: How a City Stopped a Plague, which screens on the ABC tonight as part of the 25th anniversary of the first diagnosis in Australia, outlines how authorities here took a different tack to the rest of the world by setting up a needle exchange program, enlisting sex workers to insist on condoms and using gays to promote the safe sex message, while countries such as the US were insisting on sanctions and abstinence.