Gay Health Action was founded following a series of meetings at the Hirschfeld
Centre and Trinity College Dublin in January and February 1985, attended by
representatives from the National Gay Federation, Dublin Lesbian and Gay
Men’s Collectives, Cork Gay Collective, Cork Irish Gay Rights Movement,
Trinity College Dublin Gay Society, Tel-A-Friend and Gay Information Cork.
Over the next five years, Gay Health Action pioneered public HIV and AIDS
education campaigns in Ireland. Their campaigns, in contrast to the
government’s, sought to promote safer sex practices, adopting explicit language
in doing so. They went as far as offering advice on sexual positivity and
discussing the joys available to people while still practising safe sex.
Their educational material included the first AIDS information leaflet published
in Ireland in May 1985, a play safe card, a condom card, AIDS Information
Booklet, and a Joys of Sex poster.
They disbanded in 1990 and shortly after this Senator Shane Ross remarked
‘The heterosexual community owe a debt to the homosexual community in
that the gay community, especially in Ireland, took the initiative on the
AIDS problem … The gay community tackled this problem responsibly,
and presumably, protected many in that community and many
heterosexuals from the AIDS virus.’
(Extract from the introduction to The Quilt in Focus: The History of Gay Health Action, a Facebook Live event hosted by Queer Culture Ireland and Dublin LGBTQ Pride. The event was broadcast on Wednesday 20th March 2021. The introduction was delivered by Judith Finlay, scripted with the assistance of Dr Patrick McDonagh.)