Working in the field of HIV there are frequently times when you feel compelled to correct myths and misconceptions and challenge stigma. Then there are times when you don’t even want to dignify something with a response.
Nigel Farage’s recent suggestions on how immigration might be curbed by introducing a ban on people living with HIV entering the country are based in ignorance and prejudice. They demonstrate a woeful – and irresponsible – lack of familiarity with the realities of HIV both here in the UK and globally. It was a cheap shot, aimed at making a big splash in the headlines, and completely at the expense of nearly 100,000 people living with HIV in the UK.
As Sarah Boseley has already stated in her piece this morning, the majority of people currently living with HIV in the UK were infected in the UK. It is also estimated that around 22,000 of those people living with HIV in this country are currently undiagnosed. Mr Farage’s comments only serve to encourage the stigma that surrounds HIV. By comparing people living with HIV to criminals, they will only fan the flames of the stigma that causes so many thousands of people living with HIV in the UK to feel isolated and alone. His comments are also likely to further prevent people from being tested, which will only increase the rate of new diagnoses and NHS spending from people being diagnosed late.
These comments show a shocking lack of empathy, education and responsibility. These are the real qualities that we need in order to make an impact on the rates of people being diagnosed with HIV in the UK and on the lives of those already living with the virus.