What started seven years ago as a project to remember a friend has now become what is believed to be the largest collection in the UK – possibly in the world – of first-person filmed testimony on HIV, covering the AIDS pandemic from the 1980s up to now.
In 2019, the National HIV Story Trust (NHST) deposited over 100 recorded interviews (totalling over 150 hours of filmed testimony) with people whose lives have been touched by the HIV/AIDS pandemic to London Metropolitan Archives (LMA) to feature in its ‘Positive History’ project.
After extensive, detailed archiving by the City of London Corporation-owned LMA, the first 40 of these interviews complete with transcriptions, subtitling, and metadata to make all the materials fully searchable across the entire collection, are today being made publicly accessible to anybody visiting LMA’s Mediatheque space.
Paul Coleman, co-founder and Chair of the NHST, said: “This is an extremely exciting – and important – day for us and most importantly our 100+ interviewees. By making these interviews available to the public we are ensuring future generations can understand from first-hand accounts what it meant to be diagnosed with HIV in the 1980s and 1990s, the heartbreak so many experienced but also some of the truly incredible stories of love and compassion.
“The NHST wants to thank LMA for making these testimonies accessible to anyone in perpetuity.
“But above all we want to pay tribute to the bravery and honesty of the people who shared their stories with us. For many this was the first time they had revisited that period of their life and we are honoured they wanted to contribute to this project in this way – men, women, trans, gay, straight, all races… the archive captures the breadth of HIV.”
Michael Zreika, one of the interviewees whose testimony will be accessible from today, added: “When I heard the NHST was interviewing people about their experiences with HIV I had to get in touch. Chatting to Paul was the first time in decades that I had revisited that period of my life, a time of remarkable pain. But I know that sharing my story will help to tackle the misunderstandings and ignorance that still exist today around HIV and so I am proud to be a part of this work.”
Chair of the City of London Corporation’s Culture, Heritage and Libraries Committee, Wendy Hyde, said: “Everyone involved in this major project should be congratulated for their hard work, dedication, and courage – from those who shared their experiences about the terrible impact of HIV/AIDS on their lives, to the National HIV Story Trust for offering the interviews to London Metropolitan Archives, and to the team of archivists.
“It is LMA’s privilege and responsibility to be the custodians of this remarkable – and in terms of medical and social history, valuable – collection which, when completed, will allow people access to 103 interviews.”
Photos attached show the LMA’s Mediatheque in use; please credit “London Metropolitan Archive”.
Information on accessing the archive can be found here.