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British tabloid The Sun publishes ‘appalling’ and ‘dangerous’ story on couple with HIV

British tabloid The Sun publishes ‘appalling’ and ‘dangerous’ story on couple with HIV

A tweet by The Sun of a couple who conceived a child while on partner tested positive for HIV

British tabloid The Sun published an online story describing a heterosexual couple ‘risking their life’ trying for a baby as one partner is living with HIV yesterday (28 February).

The online piece ran the headline: ‘Man risked his life having unprotected sex with HIV positive partner so they can have a baby.’

This was emphasized with ‘Life or death,’ despite the overwhelming scientific evidence suggesting otherwise.

The article was since changed to: ‘Man refused to let his partner’s HIV get in the way of his dream to have a baby.’

While it was tagged ‘Breaking taboos’ instead.

Several LGBTI heath professionals spoke out against the piece, labelling it ‘dangerous’ and ‘appalling.’

What’s the problem here?

The story concerns Sasha Goodman who was diagnosed with HIV when she was 5. Goodman is now on antiretroviral medication.

She is a ‘full time mom and HIV activist’ and said to the paper: ‘I was petrified to have a boyfriend as I didn’t want to infect anyone.’

Goodman described how her partner, Jay Hart, helped her ‘accept’ she lives with HIV.

Studies consistently show a low viral load, the amount of HIV in blood, means transmitting the virus to a sexual partner is scientifically equivalent to zero.

‘Undetectable = untransmitable’, one US health agency said.

In fact, in one study, two partners engaged in 126,000 occasions of condomless sex between mixed-HIV status individuals, with no transmissions recorded.

‘Slight risk’

The piece, written by the paper’s Digital Health Editor, does not specify this clearly. Instead, it says there is a ‘slight risk’ Hart could contract HIV.

Adding to how Hart is ‘risking’ his life to have a child with Goodman.

Moreover, studies suggested the chance of passing HIV onto a baby is 0.1%, which the article alludes to as ‘very small.’

For women with an unknown or high viral loads, a caesarean delivery can reduce the risk of mother-to-child transmissions.

Though, the piece did outline how HIV treatment works and the research behind it.

Goodman spoke out in the piece to be ‘proof you can live a normal life with the disease’ and to ‘break down the stigma.’

She added: ‘The best thing I ever did was get support and I am now lucky to help other people who are suffering in silence while refusing to take their medication.’

‘None of my family have HIV. This is something that fascinates some people as they seem to think it’s highly contagious.’

But this has not stopped some LGBTI people voicing their concerns over the article’s message.

‘End the prejudice’

Patrick Strudwick LGBT Editor of Buzzfeed UK, wrote on Twitter: ‘No he doesn’t. He risks nothing.

‘When on effective medication, people can’t pass on HIV during condom0less sex. Maybe try facts next time.

Another Twitter user said: ‘Not only is this appalling, shoddy journalism, but it’s dangerous too.

‘HIV is an entirely controllable disease and, if someone is undetectable, they can’t pass it on anyway. What an utter disgrace.’

‘This headline exposes (and furthers) the sheer ignorance about HIV,’ one user wrote.

‘At least 3 people – reporter, news editor, social media editor – will have seen this story & let it be published.

‘For the record: people with HIV, on medication, live normal, full, long lives. End the prejudice.’

The Sun’s reply

A Sun spokesperson said: ‘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.

‘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.’

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