A UK Magazine recently published a story with the headline "Hubby Gave Our Kids HIV".
The story, told from the perspective of the wife, involved a man who cheated on her. He unfortunately caught HIV from another woman he slept with and put his wife at risk by having unprotected sex with her. He fell ill, contracting meningitis, which is unusual for a man in his forties. Further tests revealed his HIV+ status. His wife and chidren remained negative. but the accusations flew.
The article showed a lack of research, education, awareness and understanding from the wife as well as the magazine.
Personally I feel the woman who was either misinformed or outrightly gave false information to the magazine (probably to make her husband look a lot worse than he already did). This is an irresponsible thing to do; clearly she has no perception of the backlash this can have on others.
The question remains, who is responsible for the right information - The woman being interviewed or the magazine itself? The answer, In my opinion, is BOTH.
Unfortunately, due to copyright laws, I can't supply you the article itself.
As someone on their activists’ mailing list, the National Aids Trust (NAT) emailed me the following information about it:
“The article is offensive, particularly stigmatising to people living with HIV and has numerous inaccuracies that can fuel HIV related stigma and discrimination.
The sensational headline on the front page, "Hubby gave our kids HIV", is false, misleading and without justification. There was no HIV transmission to either the children or the wife in the story.
There are a number of clear inaccuracies in the article:
- There has never been an incident where a child has acquired HIV from a parent or vice versa, through normal parenting activity, as described in the article.
- In the circumstances described in the story a doctor would not recommend testing the children as there is no risk.
- Using phrases like ‘deadly disease’ and ‘death sentence’ in relation to HIV is inaccurate as people living with HIV, if on effective treatment, can expect to have a normal life span as anyone else.
- The implication that HIV can be transmitted via a hairbrush or toothbrush is completely illogical as HIV transmission through these routes is impossible.”
The article misleads the readers about the reality of living with HIV in the UK today, potentially leading to them holding stigmatising views about people living with HIV and could make them reluctant to get tested themselves, with devastating consequences to their health.”
What impact does this have?
For anyone reading such a story remotely involved in close contact with someone who is HIV+, be they a family member, colleague, partner, friend, or perhaps someone dating someone who is HIV+, it can create damaging stigma. The taboos which people have spent years trying to break down can surface again with people scared to share utensils, pens or even hug someone.
Trust me; someone living with HIV+ probably needs that hug, especially if they are not coping too well. I know when I started my meds recently and my head was all over the place I needed that hug, just to be told it was going to be OK. Its helps us get through the shitty days.
For someone who may be in a relationship with someone who is HIV+, a profound effect is to be expected from the people close to the person who is negative.
AS for the stigma - should we expect it to happen? No, but we are still in an age lacking in education, and we need the genuine concern ofthe negative person at hand. After some necessary education and talking to, you would want this stigma to go away almost instantly. One of course can only hope for this to be the case.
They (the negative person) will most likely be asked if they are sure they want to do this, that they should get out of it and not put themselves at unnecessary risk. However, if it’s a relationship situation, you can’t help who you fall for at the end of the day.
What needs to be taught to society is the complete opposite of what the magazine article was saying. By this I don’t just mean reduting the ridiculous ways it proclaimed you could catch HIV (“remove your hair brushes…” was one of the stupid and ignorant claims by an apparent ‘doctor’ in the article) but I also mean the raw matter of fact truth that so many people still do not understand – that two people can have a successful serodiscordant (mixed-status) relationship.
Many people are in such relationships. It is the responsibility of both parties to be aware of the risks, the ways to protect themselves and each other. For the positive person, it is to make sure they are keeping up to date with any necessary appointments, check-ups, taking their medication on time and maintaining an undetectable viral load. By doing this the chances of infections are minimal to impossible. Like any relationship, it will revolve around honesty and trust – but in my books, HIV+ or not, without both trust and honesty there is no relationship.
According to recent rsearch, it now seems that if someone is successfully on ART (antiretroviral treatment) with an undetectable viral load and looking after themselves as they should be, the chances of them passing on the virus to a negative partner through sex is next to impossible.
Aidsmap.com published a news story on March 4th that reported “Statistical analysis shows that the maximum likely chance of transmission via anal sex from someone on successful HIV treatment was 1% a year for any anal sex and 4% for anal sex with ejaculation where the HIV-negative partner was receptive; but the true likelihood is probably much nearer to zero than this.
When asked what the study tells us about the chance of someone with an undetectable viral load transmitting HIV, presenter Alison Rodger said: "Our best estimate is it's zero."
This should help people to become a lot more accepting and understanding if they meet someone who is HIV+
Let’s hope through constant activism, sharing of knowledge, education and understanding that people become more tolerant and less hostile. Speaking as someone who is HIV+, this is needed. There is enough bullshit we all put up with in this world without having to deal with this on top of everything else.
I am hoping the writer of the magazine article I mentioned earlier, whom I have since written to, will get back to me, maybe even publish an apology and also perhaps accept my invitation to write an educational, more informed informative article for its readers.