“We were undesirable and expendable – it was homophobia and pre-judging people. “

Alf Le Flohic, 56 was a young gay man living in Brighton in the 1980s and, like many others who have watched Russell T Davies' Channel 4 series It's a Sin, he has been reflecting on horrors of the HIV and AIDs crisis it depicts.

“I found it a difficult watch because I didn’t want to go back there to be honest,” he said.

The Argus: "Safer Sussex Aids Helpline""Safer Sussex Aids Helpline"

The series follows a group of gay men who move to London in 1981.

They form a friendship group, but the fast-developing HIV/AIDS crisis begins to alter their lives, friendships and relationships beyond all recognition.

Alf said the programme has shone a light on the misunderstandings and the mistreatment of many gay men at the time.

The Argus: Alf in 1991Alf in 1991

He said: “What Russell T Davis has done is made quite a horrific time quite accessible for people who weren’t around or people who were around but weren’t aware.

“It’s great the number of conversations that it’s sparked. It was a decent portrayal but there were a lot more horrific things that happened that were not mentioned.”

Alf said that while he did not suffer any personal losses, he heard tragic stories from friends, who were not only unable to deal with their diagnosis, but also with the stigma that came along with it.

The Argus: Aids Memorial QuiltAids Memorial Quilt

He said: “I went to my doctor and was told that based on the fact I had mouth ulcers and that I was gay that I was in the early stages of AIDs. I then went on to get a HIV test which of course was negative.

“But because of the communities that were affected, gays, drug users, sex workers and some of the black community, some medical professionals just weren’t interested.

“We were undesirable and expendable – it was homophobia and pre-judging people.

“I know people who said their friends, some of them who got a positive diagnosis in the early days, just got on their motorbikes and drove it into a wall, just to avoid going through a protracted, painful, unpleasant death with everyone judging you.

“I remember the police coming into gay clubs like the Bulldog with rubber gloves. It was just such a weird time and it did really feel like people thought there was a gay plague.”

At the end of the 1980s, Brighton had a HIV infection rate that was 12 times the national average and the highest per cent per capita in Europe due to the city’s large population of gay men.

Alf said this led to an “attack” on Brighton by the media, with the Sun branding it as a “Town of Terror.”

But as a result of the persecution, Alf said a community of activists grew – lead by members of the gay, lesbian and queer community.

Alf said: “What was amazing in Brighton really was the community response. The first case in Brighton was in 1982 and the first death was in 1984, but from then on really, it was self-help.

“The thing that really was missing from It’s a Sin were the lesbians.

"Especially in Brighton, they were a vital part of the community response to AIDS and through documentaries I’ve seen from other places, they really stepped up to support their gay brothers.

“Gay men were frequently as misogynistic as their straight counterparts but that didn’t stop them, and I don’t think they get enough credit for that really.”

It’s A Sin is being credited with a significant rise in people taking tests for HIV.

The Terence Higgins Trust says a record number of HIV tests were ordered as part of National HIV Testing Week.

Alf said with shows like It’s a Sin opening up the narrative and continued advances in medicine, we can look forward to a future where no one’s life is destroyed by HIV.

“The end of HIV is within our reach,” he said.