The first response to AIDS in Ireland emerged from within a radical, socialist, and predominantly nationalist wing of the gay rights movement in 1985. At a time when homosexual acts were criminalized, the Irish state operated a policy of protracted nonengagement with Gay Health Action, while covertly supporting selected health-promotion activities. As international momentum unified around a response to the AIDS crisis characterized by value-neutral public health principles, the Irish State, and particularly the statutory health sector, was compelled to balance the views of a conservative voting majority at home with the liberal consensus that was defining the response internationally. AIDS was a catalyst for change throughout the world and Gay Health Action was at the forefront of that transformative movement in Ireland. At the outbreak of AIDS, the gay community was an “invisible minority” that by 1990 had pushed the boundaries of sexual health discourse to herald a more liberal age.
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