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This LGBT+ History Month, the theme is #UnderTheScope, a celebration of the contribution of LGBT+ people to the fields of medicine and healthcare both in the past and today. 

We asked NHST friend Dr Owen Carter to reflect on the importance of engaging with HIV/AIDS history for LGBT+ healthcare and healthcare in general in 2024 and beyond

From my ‘day job’ as a GP Partner and Specialist in Oncology as Clinical Lead at South West London’s first Rapid Diagnostic Cancer Clinic, and as a Macmillan Clinical Advisor for London, the echoes of past advocacy, struggle, and resilience have always guided and informed my work. Working alongside organisations like the LGBT Foundation, TransActual, and OUTpatients has not only deepened my understanding of the unique healthcare needs within the community, but also highlighted the gaps that persist.

The AIDS crisis of the 1980s and 1990s was a turning point, not just for the LGBT+ community but for the world of medicine at large. It brought to the fore the importance of personalised care with empathy, and the need for healthcare systems that cater to the unique experiences of individuals. This period of intense adversity also showcased the power of community, advocacy, and the relentless pursuit of medical advancements and patient rights.

Reflecting on my personal journey, I recognise a significant gap in my initial medical training regarding LGBT+ health issues and the history of HIV/AIDS. I qualified in 2007 and through medical school, as well as postgraduate study such as a diploma in sexual reproductive medicine, it was only briefly covered. This gap spurred my interest and commitment to not only educate myself but also to contribute to a more inclusive and informed healthcare environment. The strides we’ve made in treatment and understanding HIV/AIDS are monumental, and they are built upon the sacrifices and activism of countless individuals who refused to be silenced or sidelined. Listening to and watching first-hand stories of the AIDS crisis shared by organisations such as NHST have been essential resources for expanding my understanding. 

As we navigate the complexities of modern medicine, the lessons from the past are more pertinent than ever. The COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent health crises have underscored the importance of equity, community-driven healthcare, and the necessity of learning from historical health emergencies. My work, particularly in developing guidance for trans healthcare, is a testament to the evolving needs and challenges within our healthcare system. It is a constant reminder that our efforts must be inclusive, personalised, and informed by the rich tapestry of experiences that define our community. In my medical leadership roles I aim to undertake an equity assessment on every proposed piece of work I do. This can be traced directly to the efforts of patients and their advocates to challenge the medical establishment to do better in terms of tailoring healthcare. Listening to multiple viewpoints and perspectives is key to improving healthcare.

The significance of understanding our history cannot be overstated. It informs our present and shapes our future. The biggest challenge I see for LGBT+ healthcare today is variation in practice and how the community should be treated and supported. It’s pretty astonishing how challenging it can sometimes still be. First-person stories can help medical practitioners get closer to the reality in an instant, a ten-minute podcast helps you instantaneously feel and understand in a way that traditional medical education may not.

As medical practitioners, I believe we have a duty to carry forward the legacy of those who fought tirelessly for better healthcare, rights, and recognition. Engaging with the history of HIV/AIDS, and recommending to those around us that they do the same, is not just about honouring the past; it’s about ensuring a future where healthcare is accessible, equitable, and responsive to the needs of all, irrespective of their identity. 

The legacy of the AIDS crisis is not just a chapter in history but a continuing narrative that inspires and challenges us to build a more inclusive and compassionate world. This month, let’s celebrate those in the LGBT+ community who were integral to addressing the AIDS crisis and keep driving for a healthcare system that reflects the diversity and dignity of every individual it serves.


Your generous support helps us to secure, preserve and protect the stories of the HIV and AIDS pandemic. In doing so, we can ensure the stories continue to be retold to younger generations, including through the arts and education.

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