In 1986, in the face of some considerable opposition, not least from then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, Norman Fowler launched a campaign to increase public awareness of HIV/AIDS. Many in government were against tackling the issue, but having seen first-hand the devastating effects of the virus whilst visiting hospitals in Britain and the USA, he felt it was the government’s duty to act. The result of this conviction was a national newspaper advertising campaign, the distribution of information leaflets to every household in the country and, most notably, in 1987 the Don’t Die of Ignorance television and poster campaign.

In addition, he introduced needle exchange programmes to prevent the spread of the virus amongst injecting drug-users – employing the evidence-based approach to health care he has promoted ever since. As a result, the incidence of not only HIV but many other sexual transmitted diseases was reduced in the general population and the UK was affected by the epidemic less severely than other Western countries who had been more reluctant to act. 

He continues this work through writing, interviews, talks, raising the issue of HIV/AIDS in Parliament and chairing conferences around the world. He is a patron of the Terrence Higgins Trust (formerly a trustee), an advocate for the National Aids Trust and President of the British HIV Association which represents clinicians. 

Select Committee report on HIV/AIDS in the United Kingdom

In 2011 he set up a House of Lords select committee to investigate this “major public health problem” once more.  The report was published on the 1st of September 2011.

The committee concluded that the problem was growing. There were over 100,000 people living with HIV in the UK and the number continued to rise. Most worryingly, more than a quarter of those infected had not been diagnosed and were unaware of their condition. The problem was compounded by woefully inadequate spending on education and prevention. The committee recommended that more resources be spent on prevention through public information campaigns, increased uptake of HIV testing and education programmes designed to dispel myths and reduce the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS.

The committee’s full conclusions can be found here.


In 2014, he wrote a book AIDS: Don’t Die of Prejudice. The book documented his visits to nine cities around the globe to report on the international position of HIV Aids and considered the steps that must be taken to prevent a global tragedy. AIDS: Don’t Die of Prejudice is both an in-depth investigation and an impassioned call to arms against the greatest public health threat in the world today.

Reviews and articles about the book:
Peter Tatchell, Evening Standard
Guardian in Praise of…
Centre for Medical Humanities, Durham University

BBC World Service 2015

In 2015 Norman presented two programmes for the BBC World service series The Truth About AIDS:
‘AIDS in Britain and America’
‘AIDS in Russia and Australia’

Australian Radio Programme 2014 

A Politician Confronts Aids

Both audio and transcript are available.

Other Interviews

19 June 2014 Meet the Author

12 June 2020 A Big Disease with a Little Name