It’s hard to really remember how frightened we all were of AIDS back in the 1980’s, when the existence of the disease was first widely acknowledged. You could compare it to the fear evoked by Swine Flu more recently, I suppose, except that unlike the much more democratic Swine Flu, AIDS was still the disease of junkies, poofs and hookers. It was their disease, the disease of deviants, freaks and shirt lifters, but instead of having the good grace to keep their disgusting ailments to themselves, they threatened to leak it out into the broader community. Their disgusting habits were going to kill us all.
In 1984, in my extended social group consisting of Melbourne Uni students and drop outs, radical activists, and dope smoking hedonists, heroin use spread like a minor plague. For most of those who tried it, with Velvet Underground blaring in the background, it was more about taboo breaking and experimentation than a desperate need for oblivion. A lot of people snorted it or smoked it a few times and then got on with their lives. But a few people used needles. And a few kept on using. Read more »