Princess Diana's signature to feature in Edinburgh exhibition on Scotland's HIV and AIDS story
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Her compassion and profile would help transform attitudes around the world towards people living with HIV and AIDS.
Now the impact made by Diana, the former Princess of Wales, is to be recalled in a major new exhibition charting Scotland’s HIV and AIDS stories.
Her signature will go on display in Edinburgh this week alongside other memorabilia connected with the purpose-built Milestone House.
Displays will explore the origins and impact of the ground-breaking hospice – one of the first of its kind in the world – and the charity launched when the HIV epidemic was at its height in Edinburgh.
It looks back at the earliest stages of the HIV outbreak in Scotland in the 1980s, and the work of charities and community activists to overcome a "climate of fear, homophobia and demonisation”.
The seven-month exhibition has been created by the National Library in partnership with Waverley Care, Scotland’s leading HIV and Hepatitis C charity, which was founded in 1989 with the aim of developing the UK’s first purpose-built AIDS hospice, created in the grounds of the old City Hospital in Oxgangs, in south Edinburgh.
The exhibition, which has emerged from a Waverley Care research project supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, will be the first chance to hear personal stories collected in new interviews with people about their own experiences of HIV – from how it has affected their personal lives to their activism.
The oral histories gathered from nearly 30 interviewees which are featured in the exhibition will be preserved for future generations to listen to.
Among the objects on display will be the Milestone House visitor book, which the-then Princess of Wales signed when she visited the hospice in October 1991, a songbook from a benefit concert staged by Scottish singer Annie Lennox, various works of art made at Milestone house, and campaign material sent by the charity to every house in Edinburgh and the Lothians.
The exhibition – Blood, Sweat and Tears: Scotland’s HIV Story – opens on Friday and runs until December 2, the day after World AIDS Day.
Francis Osis, community heritage officer at Waverley Care, said: “This exhibition has been a chance to work with people who have lived experience of HIV and allow them to find a way to tell their own story. Stigma around HIV is driven by ignorance, so we hope to use this opportunity to help the public learn about the people behind the epidemic and reflect on their own experiences.
“The exhibition honours those who campaigned, nursed, raised awareness and funds, those who died and those who survive.”
Dora Petherbridge, curator at the National Library, said: “Co-curating with Waverley Care’s researchers deepened the resonance of the stories that this exhibition tells. In response to the unique situation in Edinburgh in the 1980s, many people worked tirelessly to overcome stigma and neglect.
"Under a climate of fear, homophobia and demonisation, Waverley Care and Milestone House, as well as other organisations such as Scottish AIDS Monitor, offered pioneering support and care for anyone affected by the virus.
“While medical treatment has become extremely advanced over the past few decades, the recent HIV outbreak in Glasgow shows Scotland’s experience is an important story to share.”