In 2013, we celebrated our 25th anniversary. We carried out a history and archive project with the support of the Heritage Lottery Board. You can see the results in our publication "...and it won't go away" or by reading below to find out about key events from our history and click on the highlighted links to see quotes from the people involved and sample documents from our archive.
For those interested in further exploring LASS history, the full archive is held at the Record Office for Leicestershire, Leicester and Rutland.
Leicester Lesbian & Gay Centre is getting an increasing amount of helpline calls about AIDS. Helpline volunteers Linda Grant and Warren Wiesner undertake research and train volunteers to provide a response, but it is recognised that a dedicated organisation is needed, separate from the helpline.
- In summer 1987, around 40 people interested in addressing issues related to HIV and AIDS attend an open meeting.
- A steering group is setup to develop plans for a new organisation.
- In October, a constitution is adopted for "Leicestershire AIDSline" and a voluntary management committee appointed.
- Volunteers start to provide direct services to people with HIV and support for partners and carers from summer onwards.
- The name of the organisation is changed to Leicestershire AIDS Support Services (LASS) in September, to reflect a focus on direct services rather than an information helpline.
- In August, LASS employs its first paid worker, coordinator Linda Grant, based in Leicester City Council's Health Promotion Unit.
- The David Manley Fund, which will provide financial support for people affected by HIV/AIDS in Leicestershire, is officially launched on World AIDS Day. The fund is named after the first person known to have died of AIDS in the county.
The first "Promenaid" benefit concert – to become an annual event - is hosted by Leicester's Haymarket Theatre in January. Stars from recent productions perform to raise £8,200 for the David Manley Fund.
- LASS income for 1988-89 amounts to £39,772.
- By June 1989, 17 people are receiving regular support from LASS.
- Two further paid posts are created – with Gordon Warren becoming Training and Development Officer, and a second volunteer training programme completed.
- In December, LASS moves into its own premises at 29 New Walk, shared with Leicester Body Positive and the Black HIV and AIDS Forum. The centre is named in honour of Michael Wood – a member of all three groups – who died earlier in the year.
LASS affairs are directed by a management committee of up to 11 members, including six volunteers.
- The staff team increases to six full time workers, Marion Lewin becoming Volunteer Co-ordinator.
- LASS services now include emotional support, practical support, financial support, advocacy, training (internal and external), publicity and campaigns, and outreach work.
- By August, 32 people are receiving regular support from LASS.
- A outreach project for women working in prostitution starts in October.
- The volunteer training programme is reshaped to include an introductory weekend, foundation and development programmes – 80 hours in all.
LASS produces a five-year action plan, based on the principles of consumer involvement, quality of services, accessibility, confidentiality, and multi-agency work.
- By March 1991, a total of 52 people have used LASS services.
- Service developments include setting up a Foodbank(with other agencies), a greater focus on bereavement support, work in prisons and support for medical staff. New link support for medical staff.
- Princess Diana visits LASS in November and and is deeply impressed by its work. Her visit is used to launch the ‘Famous Friends of LASS' initiative, with over 60 celebrities signed up.
- LASS has an income of £162,021 income during 1990-91.
By April 1992, LASS has 84 accredited volunteers with a further 26 in training, giving an average of 32 hours a month.
- By April 1992, a total of 92 people have used LASS services. Over half (58%) are male, 44 per cent are gay or bisexual, 60 per cent are aged 26 to 40, and 87 per cent are white European.
- LASS and Leicestershire Social Services organise a national conference on developing HIV services for women, children and Black communities.
- LASS panels, consisting of individual purses to remember people who have died, are completed for World AIDS Day and celebrated in at a gathering entitled "Speaking Love's Name".
LASS moves to its current premises on Regent Road(with £200,000 funding from Leicestershire Health Authority), still known as the Michael Wood Centre. It is established as a "company limited by guarantee", and gains charitable status.
- Following the dissolution of Leicester Body Positive, LASS sets up a project to develop opportunities for peer support, undertake and develop advocacy, and develop self-sustaining systems for people with HIV to influence services in Leicestershire.
- Famous Friends performing at the fifth annual Promenaid event include Tom Robinson, Labi Siffre and David Yip. The event raises £13,000 bringing the total raised by Promenaid events to £55,000.
- The prostitution outreach project is renamed Women's Health in Prostitution (WHIP), to reflect broader sexual health concerns, and receives funding for a coordinator/development worker.
Following the death of LASS founder Warren Wiesner in May, his friends and family celebrate his life in a booklet "Say something nice about me".
- Former chair Margaret Morris is appointed Chaplain for People affected by HIV in Leicestershire, the first such post in the UK.
- LASS develops partnerships to strengthen services for Black and Asian communities, following the closure of the Black HIV and AIDS Forum the previous year.
- Volunteers are shown to contribute approximately 150,000 hours over one year – the equivalent of over 77 full-time workers.
- LASS is involved in planning and delivery of Leicestershire County Council's national conference on developing services for gay men.
- The number of famous friends rises to 114.
LASS now employs eight paid staff, and there are 161 volunteers, with a further 20 in training.
- LASS is the East Midlands winner in the national "Make A Difference" volunteering awards. Its volunteer training programme is now accredited by Leicestershire Open College Network.
- WHIP now has 40 volunteers and regular contact with 250 women.
- LASS opens two staffed drop-in sessions each week, and a sponsored cycle ride in May raises nearly £2,000 for these sessions.
- Complementary therapies are offered from the building, supported by the Tim Aubrey Fund, named in memory of a volunteer and service user.
After several years of negotiations, LASS secures a three-year service agreement with Leicestershire Health Authority.
- The building is made wheelchair accessible and a Garden of Remembrance and Relaxation is created by volunteers.
- During 1995-96, LASS receives extensive media coverage – approximately 85 articles in local publications and 52 radio interviews.
Local government reorganisation, creating Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland councils, has a significant effect on LASS and staff workloads.
- Following a review of Complementary Therapies, Foodbank and the David Manley Fund – all of which rely on fundraising – eligibility criteria are revised.
- Promenaid 97 takes Broadway and West End musicals as its theme, raising over £10,000 for local HIV/AIDS work. The events have raised more than £100,000 over the past nine years.
- "Love Fest 97 – a celebration of love, sexuality and safe sex" consisting of a series of fun events with a serious message throughout the summer, is coordinated by a multi-agency group including LASS.
Trends experienced by LASS during 1997-98 included an increased demand for one-to-one support, requests for information on benefits, more female, Asian male and male prisoner service users, and more support for people in their own homes.
- The final Promenaid event takes place on a reduced scale.
- LASS contributes to Leicestershire's revised strategies for HIV services and sexual health.
- World AIDS Day activities include joint work with Leicester City Football Club.
- Focus groups run every three to four months provide opportunities for services user to discuss services with the management committee.
During 1998-99, LASS offers long-term befriending to 41 people and one-to-one support to 158 individuals. It provides 526 hours of respite service and 317 hours of therapies, distributes 474 bags of food worth nearly £2,000, and administers grants and loans worth nearly £1,500 from the David Manley Fund.
- Following an organisational review, LASS starts a series of "vision planning days" in February, leading to a new strategic plan in the autumn.
- LASS sets up a service user consultation forum.
- Over 100 Famous Friends continue to support LASS and help combat prejudice about HIV and AIDS.
- WHIP hosts a national conference on support for women wishing to leave prostitution.
- Panels from the Names Project UK AIDS memorial quilt are displayed at Leicester Cathedral.
- At the World AIDS Day candelight vigil, 47 new purses are made for the LASS panels, bringing the total to 64.
- LASS arranges welfare and legal rights advice for 80 service users, in all cases gaining some material benefit for the individual concerned.
- During 1999-2000, volunteers give a total of 28,400 hours – based on the average working wage, this would be worth £238,250.
Demand for LASS's services is increasing rapidly – from 115 HIV positive people in March 2000 to 165 in March 2001 – and service users have more complex needs.
- WHIP secures funding from Leicestershire Health Authority, Comic Relief and the Diana Princess of Wales Fund, allowing it to recruit four new workers, bringing total staffing to six.
- LASS receives a SmithKline Beecham Community Health IMPACT Award in recognition of the excellence of its services and impact on the community.
- As "AIDS fatigue" sets in, LASS works with other organisations to keep HIV on the agenda - ranging from Ayurvedic health events at a Hindu temple to SHAG (Sexual Health Awareness and Guidance) Week with Leicester University Student Union.
At its 2002 annual general meeting, LASS describes itself as an agency "in trouble" due to rising infection rates and gaps in services, hidden destitution of service users, and difficulty in meeting service running costs.
- The annual report describes HIV as a "forgotten catastrophe" which still carries stigma and fear – of the 220 positive people supported by LASS, only three are publicly open about their status.
- LASS works to raise awareness and action relating to energy, trade and HIV/AIDS, as part of Leicester's response to the World Summit on Sustainable Development.
- LASS works with the gay men's health project Trade to produce "time2test", a postcard aimed at gay men.
LASS produces a briefing paper on the "Local HIV Health and Social Care Crisis" for planners and policy makers.
- WHIP, renamed the New Futures Project, becomes an independent company with charitable status in July.
- During 2002-03, LASS provides 14,000 hours of emotional support, 7,500 hours of case work, 1,300 hours of practical support, and 429 hours of complementary therapies. It provides financial support to 167 people and distributes food worth over £24,000 for 169 people. It offers 390 hours of external training to 2,413 people from 64 different groups and organisations.
- The direct services team doubles in size to six people in the summer.
Of the 113 HIV positive new service users during 2003-04, 74 are seeking asylum from wars and violence, 62 are women, many with children. LASS is now providing services to 84 young people under 18 – 27 are themselves positive and 57 have parents with the virus.
- Six service users receive bills for NHS treatment, under new legislation introducing charges for HIV treatment for people who cannot prove they normally live in the UK. LASS describes this as the ‘greatest threat' to HIV work for over 20 years, and is working with others to lobby for HIV treatment to be exempt from charges, in line with other infectious diseases such as TB.
- The Foodbank becomes unsustainable because of the demand from new service users, and it is reluctantly decided to reduce it to a three-month service only.
- Winnie's Fund, to help meet the needs of children affected by HIV, is launched on World AIDS Day.
During 2004-05, a full review of all LASS policies and procedures is undertaken, new policies incorporated into the employee handbook and a staff training programme developed.
- Leicester City Council commissions LASS to undertake a snapshot of the circumstances and needs of people living with HIV to inform its HIV/AIDS services plan.
- LASS now employs 13 staff, including specialist posts covering benefits, immigration and asylum and sexual health and anti-poverty.
- LASS becomes one of the first 50 organisations to join the Make Poverty History campaign.
LASS develops a "stress and support" action plan for staff, in response to the demands created by four external reviews during the previous year.
- Five people from LASS record their stories for Radio Leicester, which are broadcast several times in March.
- LASS takes part in Leicester Refugees and Asylum-seekers Voluntary Sector Forum survey.
- LASS launches Charity Challenge fundraising opportunities at Pride in partnership with "Discover Adventure".
- In December, the Board forms a governance review group to produce a board development plan.
LASS director Linda Grant leaves after 19 years in post, and Jenny Hand is appointed as chief executive officer in October.
- The Charities Aid Foundation funds a 10-day consultancy to help LASS develop a long-term strategic plan.
- A survey undertaken by the new CEO reveals that service users would like LASS to provide HIV testing; more activities and therapies; improvements to the building; peer support for newly diagnosed people by positive people living well; and more support for carers.
- In October, LASS gains the national Investing in Volunteers Award.
A new mission and vision statement is approved in January.
- A video for DVD, "A Life and Kicking" is produced, based on the experiences of four positive people.
- A donation of £10,000 from local employer Caterpillar is used for major refurbishment of the building, including a new kitchen/café formally opened in November. This will allow food to be cooked for drop-in sessions. John Lewis also supports the café with equipment and staff time.
- LASS works closely with TRADE (gay men's sexual health) and Faith in People with HIV on World AIDS Day events.
LASS introduces a rapid HIV testing service in June. Testing is carried out by trained volunteers and staff at LASS premises or events such as Summer Sundae music festival. The service is overseen by a clinical governance group from Leicester Royal Infirmary and GP representatives.
- LASS receives a grant of £54,862 from the Hardship Fund, a government initiative launched in April 2009 to help voluntary organisations suffering hardship.
- LASS develops young people's "Shout Safer Sex" project funded by national volunteering organisation V.
LASS Social Enterprise Ltd – trading as "Well for Living" – is registered in March 2010. It will seek to diversify LASS's funding and spread its experience more widely, including support for people living with a range of long term conditions.
- In April, LASS works with TRADE, Leicester LGBT Centre, Rape Crisis and Tomorrow Together to create 11 posts under the government's Future Jobs Fund for unemployed young people.
- Peer support group LhivE develops, aiming to realise the rights and responsibilities of people living with HIV, and ensure that their needs and views are reflected in decision-making and shaping services.
- During 2009-10 LASS works with 678 services users, including 51 new referrals.
- LASS total funding for 2010-11 amounts to £588,619.
- LASS is short-listed as among the top 30 charities in the country in the Charity Awards 2011.
- LASS is one of three delivery partners in the newly formed East Midlands African HIV partnership.
- Black African women make up 43 per cent of service users. 85 service users – around 15 per cent – have a disability in addition to HIV.
- The service works with Leicester prison to raise awareness and understanding about HIV and hepatitis with prisoners and staff, and support those diagnosed with these conditions.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu agrees to become LASS's first international patron.
- Between April 2011 and March 2012, LASS carries out a total of 353 rapid HIV tests, and distributes over 40,000 condoms.
- LASS undertakes research with Africa Health Policy Network on the effect of involving trained community volunteers on the uptake of rapid HIV testing among different African communities in Leicester.
- LASS is shortlisted for the 2013 GlaxoSmithKline IMPACT Awards for health sector organisations. Just 20 were shortlisted from 419 applications.
LASS wins a prestigious GlaxoSmithKline IMPACT Award for its outstanding contribution to improving health in Leicestershire, particularly through its rapid HIV testing service. The prize includes £30,000 in funding and a training and development programme run by the King's Fund.