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PiP: Experiencing AIDS in the 80's – a personal story

PiP: Experiencing AIDS in the 80's – a personal story

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PiP: Experiencing AIDS in the 80's – a personal story

177 Seiten
3 Stunden
Jul 1, 2017


Originally titled 'Love Has No Gender', Pip's story began over 30 years ago at a time of ignorance and misinformation. It is a true story of a journey into the unknown. A lifetime later this tale is still as fresh and as frightening as it was then.

A percentage of the royalties for this book will be donated to the Terrence Higgins Trust.
Jul 1, 2017

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PiP - Derek Crowe


Experiencing AIDS in the 80’s – a personal story

Derek Crowe

Dedicated to all the doctors, nurses and staff who cared for Pip, and all the friends and family who carried us both through those long and difficult times.

Without the enormous help and support of Phil Mann and Maxine Maas, and the belief this story should be told, I fear it would have lain in the folder for another 30 years. Tapping into Phil’s experience in publishing, the manuscript slowly developed into the story of Pip. Without their help, belief and persuasion I would never have embarked on the path to its conclusion.

I also have to thank Alistair my partner for his technical experience in sorting out my computer and printer, both of which I still fail to understand; he also had to put up with me rabbiting on about the book and constantly asking his opinion.

To you all

Thank you, thank you, thank you

Copyright © Derek Crowe

Design and typeset by Ace


It seems so long since I wrote this story, 30 years in fact, and so much with the treatment of AIDS has changed and progressed.

In the early days of AIDS there was so much misinformation both by the press and the government. Fear was the predominant feeling as this was an illness that had suddenly appeared, but from where? There was so much speculation.

Where in the world had it come from?

Was it from animals?

Was there a cure?

How could it be stopped?

Who was to blame?

In the beginning there wasn’t an answer to any of these questions and sadly it was the gay community who took the blame. Initially it was gay men who contracted the illness but it only needed an astute mind to realise that eventually it could and would extend its hand to both the gay and straight community. The illness manifested itself in many ways effecting the body of each individual differently, creating a headache for the medical staff as to the most appropriate treatment to use for each unfolding condition.

The use of AZT as a possible drug for the treatment of AIDS was a trial where nobody knew what the success or effects would be, or how the body would be affected, but there was a great deal of hope.

Pip was one of the first to test this new drug. The side effects were horrific and administration was every 4hrs, 24hrs a day, each tablet monitored and logged. Today’s treatments are now so far advanced and understood, allowing so many people around the world to Live with AIDS and they now have (thankfully) a full and meaningful life.

Sadly for Pip AZT didn’t give us the Cure that we both prayed for, it did however open the way to today’s medication that is now proving so successful.

Although I lost the man that I truly loved I learnt so much about myself and what love truly is. It also exposed the support and love shown by friends and family and the amazing medical staff who nurture their patients back to life with dignity and understanding. Gradually, high profile individuals added their support and it was the visitations by Princess Diana and her positivity that started to replace the prejudices towards gay men.

In the past there have been many illnesses that have reared their ugly head which have now become controlled. Lets hope that soon, with the wonders of new medical advances, AIDS will also become an illness that is no longer feared.   

A dream and a hope for all humans around the world.

Chapter 1

I saw him first on Sunday on 7th October 1979.  It was a hot day and I’d gone to Salon 79, an annual trade show held at Wembley who’s that? I asked Tony, a friend of mine who was on the stand of one of London’s hairdressing schools, One of the teachers he replied. Do you want an introduction? I was then and still am, basically shy and declined the offer, although, I must admit, I was fascinated. He was producing some beautiful hairdressing. His style of dress was distinctive and his dark cavalier looks had an air of mystery about them No thanks Tony, he does look interesting but give it a miss, maybe I’m not right for him. He haunted me for the rest of the day and I kept returning to the stand to watch him.

It was three weeks later after arranging for Tony and his girlfriend Debbie to come for dinner, that I was eventually to meet Phillippe. Can I bring a friend?, Tony had asked. Sure, I replied, I always had an open house and was intrigued when I was told I’d already met the mystery guest.

Phillippe, who was later to be nicknamed Pip came into my life that day and remained. We met regularly for the next three weeks with either me travelling to London or Pip coming to my home in Fleet. Suddenly I realised this person was making me laugh, and life was again fun. We also found we had a lot in common. The greatest of these was our mutual love of hairdressing. The fact there was someone to share things with really meant that life was on the up.

Some months before I’d booked a week’s holiday in Malta so I suggested that Pip move into my flat whilst I was away, mainly to have a break from the apartment that he was renting in London. I left for my holiday and spent the whole week thinking of him, wanting the days to go faster so that we could be together again. Eventually I was on the plane returning, knowing he’d be at the airport. It was wonderful to see his smiling face and to be welcomed with a red rose. He was such a romantic and over the years that trait was to be seen often, showered onto myself, and our close friends.

The pleasure of seeing him was soon dispelled by the fact that he’d had a telephone call from the local hospital whilst I was away, saying they had a bed for me. I’d waited months to have an operation for a hernia and they had to have a bed NOW. The pain after the operation was unbearable, but the nursing and care I received from Pip were really superb. He was the combination of a mother and a lover. I felt like a King and loved it.

The salon was now a stylist short. As I wasn’t allowed to work for at least four weeks, here was perhaps the perfect answer, a built in stylist to help take over my clients. At least it would help ease the worry of putting extra work onto the other stylists, and it would give him the opportunity of meeting the clients that we had. It was possible that he could become the extra member of staff that we’d been looking for. He was accepted immediately – both the girls and the clients loved his good looks and he had such a gentle way with people, no matter how busy he was or how late he was running on appointments, clients were prepared to wait, knowing he would give them all his attention. He also had such a zany sense of humour, and they were always guaranteed a quip or a joke. The salon had again another winner. He complimented the other staff that were already there.

Eventually, I started back in the salon and wondered how this relationship would work out with both of us together twenty four hours a day. While I enjoyed his company, to say I loved him at that stage wouldn’t have been true, however, he fascinated me and I imagine that was where the magic was. We had our ups and downs, and our arguments. In retrospect it must have been hard for him. I was the one who had everything. My own business, own home, car money, position and respect. I enjoyed his company, but at that stage love was definitely a word I couldn’t use. I was to earn that later. Reading his diaries later, I believe he was instantly in love with me. One entry in the early days is Beautiful man, please God that I can love and be loved, also a few days later Derek phoned with a heart drawn around my name. I believe that even then, he had so much he wanted to give to me, but I wasn’t ready and often held back. I’m sure I was frightened. Why should someone feel like this? I didn’t want to be hurt and I knew what I really felt inside, wasn’t what I should be feeling if I were to use the words I love you.

When I said them, they had to have real meaning. I was fascinated by this man and enjoyed his company, but certainly at that stage didn’t love him.

Chapter 2

Our first trip of many abroad was to Copenhagen. A long week-end to stay with some people that we’d met during a dinner party with David and Lis. David had been my boss when I had worked for Clairol as their Key accounts technical manager in the West End and they had become life long friends. Tove was a long standing friend of Lis and they had grown up in Copenhagen. When Tove and her husband offered the invitation at Christmas, Pip and I jumped at the chance to visit them. The weekend was filled with laughter, good food and too much to drink. The one thing that we both learnt during those few days about each other was our mutual interest in travelling abroad. A lot of our reading and television viewing became travel related. We were also great sun worshipers therefore we had few problems in deciding where to go, always the balance had to be sun and masses of sightseeing and we were of the opinion, that, if a group of people went to the left, then we had to go to the right. Sometimes we missed out but, more often the more interesting things were around the next corner in the opposite direction.

Most tourist offices would prefer that the average tourist never clapped eyes on many of the things we discovered. Shortly after our visit to Denmark we went for a weekend in Paris. The only way to see the City was on foot. Over the years we’d walked around most of the centres of Europe and have seen so many things that would have been missed by any other form of transport. Our feet may have been sore, but our minds were full.

Our first real holiday was when we decided to go to Morocco. We’d chosen Agadir, and it was our intention to hire a car and to tour down as far South as we could, with the hope of reaching Tan Tan to see the Tuareg Tribe known as the blue men of the Sahara due to the dye of Indigo in their blue robes which also coloured their skin. From there we would travel through the Atlas mountains, then spend a few days in Marrakech, before returning to the coast. For Pip, apart from a school trip abroad, this was a whole new experience and he really treated it as an adventure, giving himself the air of being the intrepid explorer.

We had our typhoid injections, started on the anti-malaria tablets and left on the 3rd October via Tangier and Casablanca. The small apartment that we’d rented was not far from the centre of the town. It was clean and adequate as our intention was only to sleep there, and have our main meals out.

Agadir for us was Africa at its worst, however it did have a fantastic beach that went on for mile after mile. The problem when on the beach was that whenever we went for a walk, we were always pestered by young Arab boys, wanting to sell either sex or hash. Fortunately the apartment that we had rented had an arrangement with one of the large hotels, allowing us to use their private pool. Pip always went a very dark colour when tanned and we were forever being stopped as we walked through the hotel by their security guards, checking on Pips nationality, making sure he wasn’t an uninvited local. We found out later, all hotels had very strict rules in this respect, to stop guests being harassed, and on one occasion later in Marrakech it was to be our saving grace. We spent the first few days just lazing and discovering Agadir, and on the second week we hired a car and planned our route to the outback. What a heap that car was. The age was indeterminable and the upholstery filthy, still the tyres seemed good and the engine was tuned well, so we embarked on our journey.

Once out of Agadir, the true Morocco started to unfold. It really is an extremely beautiful and interesting country. The people were colourful, and we felt we had an air of stepping back to biblical times. Many of the villages we passed were made entirely from mud which gave hue against the blue of the sky and barren dustiness. After two days of travelling and having stayed at a very nice hotel overnight we arrived at, I think it was called Ouasesat, on the edge of the Sahara.

We booked into what appeared to be the best and smartest hotel. When we’d arrived the electricity was off, also the water. We’d been travelling all day and after the heat and the dust desperately wanted a shower to freshen ourselves and then get something to eat. Another problem we were encountering was being constantly plagued by flies. It was fine whilst the car was moving, but as soon as we stopped, there they were, en masse. In the hotel we noticed that in a central courtyard they had a most inviting swimming pool, and we decided that as the water was turned off, perhaps, this might be the answer. Armed with towels and bathing costumes we placed ourselves on a chair by the pool. Instantly we were invaded by flies.

Pip stripped quickly, saying I’m gonna get these buggers. They’ll either drown when I go under, or the taste of the water will kill them. Within seconds there was a black mass around him. As he walked down the steps into the water they gradually seemed to move up his body. Eventually he was in the pool, swimming with just his head above the water, still they flew around him.  To throw them off the scent he dived under water, amazingly they followed his progress as he swam, as he surfaced they took up their former position remaining there until he came out, where they again surrounded him. Some years later we were to travel to Australia where we were warned they had a problem with flies. Never once whilst there did we experience the volume and persistence we met in Morocco. 

The restaurant caused me great embarrassment. We changed and entered the primitive dining room which was hot and stuffy. The windows were closed, possibly to keep out the flies. Big poona fans were whirring from the ceiling. The place was surprisingly full for somewhere that was in the outback. We sat down and studied the menu. The only choice being the menu of the day offering stew as the main course.

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