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Campaigners eviscerate The Sun over ‘insidious’ Hollywood HIV story

Joseph McCormick November 11, 2015

The Sun newspaper has found itself at the centre of a storm of criticism over today’s front page which speculates on a Hollywood actor’s HIV status.

The paper published the front page on Wednesday, titled “HOLLYWOOD HIV PANIC” which states: “A-list actor’s virus diagnosis rocks showbiz…. Womanising star has string of ex-lovers.”

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Describing the person as a “superstar”, the Sun wrote that it was “choosing not to name” him.

However, the vile article went on to speculate that lawyers for the “superstar” were preparing themselves for a “raft of potential legal claims”.

The article and headlines have been highly criticised by HIV campaign groups who state that it is “irresponsible” and “insidious”.

Many took to Twitter to suggest the article was reminiscent of media reports on HIV in the 1980s.

Another version of the story was also published on Radar Online, which included more details about the actor’s personal life.

However the Sun version also speculated on six of the man’s previous sexual partners.

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Terrence Higgins Trust Executive Director, External Affairs, Shaun Griffin, told the Huffington Post: “At its best this is irresponsible journalism, at its worst an insidious headline grab. It is impossible to comment on the details here because there aren’t any.

“However we can counter the lack of veracity with fact. The fact is that for anyone diagnosed with HIV, they are given treatment that reduces the amount of HIV virus to an “undetectable” amount and this means HIV cannot be passed on.

“The fact is that it is utterly wrong to disclose an individuals HIV status without their permission – though what we are provided with enough information here to effectively identify them.”

He went on: “Even with the advances made in HIV testing and treatment, this shows that unfounded prejudices still remain. It is attitudes like these that perpetuate HIV stigma.

“Stigma is a dangerous construct and we’ve seen that it has a damaging effect on individuals and on public health. It can deter people from accessing testing or treatment, and can isolate a person living with HIV causing anxiety or depression.”

The article, as it appears online, also quotes the Terrence Higgins Trust, in a previous statement about HIV treatments, and how they have developed.

In addition it refers to Rock Hudson as a “virus victim”.

Also in the Sun today was an article incorrectly stating that BBC2’s new drama London Spy was being investigated by OFCOM after the BBC received thirteen complaints. 

OFCOM has since confirmed to PinkNews that this is not the case, and the show will not be investigated.

More: HIV, speculation, Terrence Higgins Trust, The Sun

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