THIS week I’ve watched all of Channel 4’s It’s A Sin, it’s about a close-knit group of flatmates, mostly young gay men, in 1980s London. It is devastating, brilliant writing from Russell T Davies, and a groundbreaking telling of the AIDS pandemic through the eyes of the young people whose lives it tore apart.

We need stories like this. In one episode of It’s A Sin the character Ash, a new teacher, is bullied into trawling the school library because of Section 28, the reviled 1988 Tory law that banned schools and councils “promoting homosexuality”. Ash gives a powerful monologue about how there are no gay characters in Shakespeare, Austen, Dickens – there is nothing to “protect” young people from, because queer representation does not exist.

There’s a lot to do to rebalance our culture with stories that have been silenced for generations. At university, I did an entire module on the works of Virginia Woolf without any reference to her relationships with women. It took me another four years after that to realise I too was bisexual, and I felt a bit ashamed of not having the words for it sooner. But how could I have? It was never mentioned at school.

Some young people grow up feeling different because of their sexuality or their gender identity. Without safe ways to express that, ask questions or learn from reliable sources, those young people can feel shamed into silence. Teaching queer stories cannot turn young people gay or trans – but it can make the odd ones out feel less isolated and less ashamed, and that can save lives. Campaigns like Time for Inclusive Education (TIE) work to promote February as LGBT+ history month, and for accurate education in Scottish schools all year round.

Thanks to tireless activists, HIV treatment and support has come a long way in the intervening years, and the stigma is reducing. Anyone can order a free, discreet home testing kit from HIV Scotland and receive support whatever the diagnosis. Treatment advances make it possible to maintain levels of the virus so low in the body that it’s undetectable, and therefore can’t be passed on. The drug PrEP, which prevents HIV infection, is available for free on the NHS, and so too is PEP which can be taken after possible exposure.

However, there are still significant groups of people locked out of healthcare access in Glasgow, especially trans people, black women, refugees, asylum seekers and migrants. With a lack of support for language barriers or women’s specific needs around sexual violence and FGM, or the way the traumatic UK immigration system erodes trust in other services, there is a huge need for culturally sensitive support like that provided by Waverley Care, Hwupenyu and Saheliya in Glasgow.

It’s A Sin shows the total abdication of responsibility of Government while gay men were dying in huge numbers. No action was taken to prevent the spread of infection, just a casual cruelty of disinterest in so many young lives lost, and then blamed for their own demise. We should celebrate huge progress in the fight against HIV, but we also need to be clear how much work there is still to do.