LGBT+ History: Scotland’s decriminalisation/ first UK AIDS case

1980 Sex between two men over the age of 21 ‘in private’ is decriminalised in Scotland.  Homosexual activities were legalised in Scotland  — on the same basis as that which was used for the 1967 Act in England and Wales — by Section 80 of the Criminal Justice Scotland Act 1980.

80 Homosexual offences

—(i) Subject to the provisions of this section, a homosexual act in private shall not be an offence provided that the parties consent thereto and have attained the age of twenty-one years.

(2)An act which would otherwise be treated for the purposes of this Act as being done in private shall not be so treated if done—

(a)when more than two persons take part or are present or

(b)in a lavatory to which the public have, or are permitted to have, access whether on payment or otherwise

1981 The first UK case of AIDS was recorded when a 49-year-old man was admitted to Brompton Hospital in London suffering from PCP (Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia). He died ten days later. He had lost weight over three months and suffered three weeks’ general malaise and progressive breathlessness.

The first concerns were raised in the US as described in the following extract from a CDC report;

A review of requests for pentamidine had documented that PCP in the United States was almost exclusively limited to patients with cancer or other conditions or treatments known to be associated with severe immunosuppression (3). Recent requests for this drug from physicians in New York and California to treat PCP in patients with no known cause of immunodeficiency had sparked the attention of Division staff.

An article from 1981 speculates about the causes of what would become the AIDS epidemic.

“Dr Jaffe,[said] the epidemic may be due to a new and previously unrecognised strain of an infectious agent – possibly comparable with Legionnaires’ disease. This agent may or may not be a virus. He added: “We have no evidence at the moment that it is transmitted from person to person, but this is something we are concerned about.” In recent months, British specialists have become increasingly interested in US developments, and current speculation in medical circles is about when, rather than whether, further PCP and the first KS cases will turn up here. “We have to be careful not to be alarmist,” a London doctor closely involved said last week. “The numbers we are talking about are very small. But I think this problem is going to become a large one.”

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