Warwick Alumni Survey Responses
On the provision of information within the university:
Three students between 1980 and 1986 didn't recall their being any information on HIV or other STDs on campus or at the health services during this period.
Several students between 1986 and 1991 remembered the University and the Student Union providing information leaflets on HIV and other STDs, and the health centre providing information also.
One student between 1986 and 1989 said that in the first year the Student Union provided a leaflet about the dangers associated with specific activities; 'some of us were rather inexperienced and didn't know what some of the activities (rimming, water sports) even were!'
A student between 1988 and 1981 'had to have an AIDS test in relation to my father's job and was horrified when the doctor tried to find a way around it as he said that a girl like me shouldn't have to – as if it was obvious from looking at me that I would not be at risk. I told him I was very happy to take the test!'
On the availability of condoms within the university:
A student between 1978 and 1982 noted that condoms were available in both male and female toilets (though a female student recalls their availability only in the male toilets). Another student (1979-1983) noted that while condoms were broadly available, 'every young woman was on the pill and condoms were not often used'. One student (1981-84) didn't know whether condoms were available as 'I was taking the contraceptive pill and didn't consider I needed them'.
One student between 1980 and 1983 recalled no information about where to get condoms on campus; 'we purchased our own'. Another (1981-1984) had 'no idea' whether condoms were available on campus, but suspected this was not very easy as she obtained them elsewhere; moreover, she visited family planning services in Coventry for contraception as well as smear tests, so suspects that the 'campus health service wasn't proactive in this regard'. Another student during this period didn't know whether condoms were easily available; 'being female, I never asked.' One student in the period after HIV's emergence (1985-1989) couldn't remember 'there being much' available. Likewise, a student between 1993 and 1996 didn't recall information about where to obtain condoms on campus; another in the same period remembered buying some from a chemist in Coventry 'so I was either unaware of being able to obtain them on campus or I would have been too embarassed!'. A student in 2007 likewise didn't remember condoms being available on campus.
A student in 1996 said that 'condoms were known to be readily available at every venue and event and there was an abundance of flyers (regarding condoms and their use) at the health centre also; condoms were 'extremely easy to obtain discreetly' (he/she was 'grateful for this').
On government ads and T.V. campaigns in the 1980s:
These were remembered by everyone who responded. The initial information was 'very scary'. 'I remember them being everywhere, and it feeling as though the world was about to change'. 'Strangely the death of Rock Hudson was a big deal – first famous person'. The ads 'suddenly meant carrying condoms was not just OK but actually a social responsibility'. The ads were 'striking' and 'very effective – it got everyone talking about the issues in a frank and open manner. It changed attitues to discussing safe sex tremendously'.
On whether individuals associated HIV/AIDS with particular groups or activities:
'At the time, the media focussed on gay men, prostitutes, African immigrants, and "swingers"'. 'In the early days it was very much portrayed as the Gay Plague'; it was associated with 'homosexuals, intravenous drug takers and the promiscuous', or with 'Ugandans and South Africans'. A student in 1981-1985 said that HIV was associated with the gay community 'and at uni I didn't know anyone who was gay. It was still kept quiet then.'
Did information about HIV and STDs affect behaviour?
Information about HIV 'made us all feel more nervous', but 'the campaigns seemed to focus on the risks to gay men. I remember being concerned in case any potential partner was bisexual but that was about it.' For one respondent, HIV was 'very frightening – it put me off sex for about two years'. One student wasn't affected by information, 'ahtough I did contract an STD as did many of my friends'. For one student, behaviour was affected 'up to a point, but then I had a lot of other concerns while studying [1989-1996], My main concern was getting someone pregnant rather than STDs'. Another student (1993-96) said that he/she wasn't affected by information; 'I was quite naive and believed that I was unlikely to come into contact with anyone carrying the virus'. Similarly, a student in 1990-1994 was not worried: 'I thought I was invincible and it wouldn't affect me.'