Terrence Higgins Trust slams The Sun’s ‘irresponsible, inaccurate’ HIV headline

Charlie Jones February 28, 2019
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The Sun was labelled "irresponsible and inaccurate" over its headline

The Sun faced criticism from the Terrence Higgins Trust over its "irresponsible and inaccurate" headline. (the Sun)

Charity Terrence Higgins Trust has called The Sun’s headline about an HIV-positive woman and her partner starting a family “irresponsible and inaccurate.”

The headline, which has subsequently been changed, said: “Man ‘risked his life’ having unprotected sex with HIV positive partner so they can have a baby.”

There is, however, no risk of an HIV-positive person passing on the virus to a partner when effective medication is used. Antiretroviral medication reduces the viral load of an HIV-positive person to an undetectable amount.

NHS England says that once “your viral load has been undetectable for 6 months or more, it means you can’t pass the virus on through sex.”

In response to The Sun, Terrence Higgins Trust—which provides services for and campaigns on behalf of HIV-positive people—tweeted that “Sasha’s boyfriend absolutely did not risk his life by having sex with her.”

The tweet continued: “Headlines like this undermine all the work to promote the message that those on effective HIV treatment #CantPassItOn.”

The Sun responds to criticism over “irresponsible and inaccurate” headline

A spokesperson for The Sun told PinkNews that the headline on the article has been changed. The headline now reads: “Man refused to let his partner’s HIV get in the way of his dream to have a baby.”

“The piece reflects—at length—the fact that individuals with HIV can live entirely normal lives and that mercifully medical treatments have advanced quickly in recent years,” said the spokesperson.

“Nobody reading the copy could think our intention was anything other than that. Though the headline is a reference to a quote from the interviewee, we have changed the headline to ensure that the feature, rather than the headline, is the focus of our readers’ attention.”

The quote “risked his life” does not appear in the body of The Sun‘s article.

The Terrence Higgins Trust sets the record straight on HIV

Terrence Higgins Trust reiterated that “people living with HIV and on effective treatment, like Sasha, #CantPassItOn.”

They also thanked Goodman for sharing her story, and clarified that an HIV-positive mother on effective treatment has a 0.1 percent chance of transmitting the virus to her baby.

“Thanks to amazing medical advances, very few babies are now born with HIV in the UK,” they wrote.

“When a pregnant woman is on effective HIV treatment and takes certain precautions, the chances of the baby having HIV is 0.1%,” they said, including a link to more information. 

Twitter responds to Sun saying man starting family with HIV+ woman “risked his life”

Goodman was quick to respond, calling The Sun headline “stupid and infectious.”

Goodman tweeted: “Well done the daily mirror ! You actually took the story and shared it’s true content ! Thank you for not making me out to be stupid and infectious like the other papers today !”

Many Twitter users also piled pressure on The Sun to change the headline or risk furthering “the sheer ignorance about HIV,” as one user commented.



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