HIV charities criticise MP’s ‘alien disease’ question

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background. Exclusive

A Conservative MP has caused alarm amongst HIV and AIDs charities after raising concerns from the Ascension island of St Helena regarding workers bringing “alien diseases such as HIV and AIDs.”

Anthony Steen, MP for Totnes, addressed the Foreign and Commonwealth questions session in Parliament yesterday and claimed residents of St Helena were worried that the planned building of an airport on the land by the UK would bring “health implications” and “diseases that are alien to the island like HIV and AIDs.”

Lisa Power, Head of Policy at Terrence Higgins Trust told “No island can avoid 21st Century problems unless they refuse to admit visitors. We know that the British Government has already set underway work to improve sexual health on the island, including a recent visit by sexual health expert Professor Mike Adler, to discuss communicable disease.”

A spokeswoman from the National AIDs Trust told “Fear of disease and fear of foreigners are examples of discrimination which sadly often go together, and are a major obstacle in responding to the HIV pandemic.

“The focus for effectively preventing HIV spread in St Helena should be on HIV awareness programmes and making treatment and care widely available.”

Labour MP for Rhondda, Chris Bryant, told “If the people of St Helena really think that they can contract HIV by having a runway built on an island, that is very depressing, but it is even more depressing that a Conservative MP still holds such Neanderthal views.

However a spokesman for Mr Steen said the question was supposed to raise issues of sexual health education after he had met with residents from the island, “St Helena is a small population and an isolated community which is currently HIV and AIDs free.

“As it has never reached the island he said people need to be educated about it.

“He wanted to have a health awareness campaign and wanted to know what was being done.”