The Mirror faces complaints over ‘Hollywood actor with HIV’ article

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The Mirror faces calls to issue an apology from HIV charities, after publishing an article suggesting an HIV-positive Hollywood actor “deserves everything he gets”.

The article published on 11 November, was titled ‘The Hollywood actor with HIV deserves everything he gets – and worse’.

It came following the publication of an article by the Sun titled “HOLLYWOOD HIV PANIC” which stated: “A-list actor’s virus diagnosis rocks showbiz…. Womanising star has string of ex-lovers.”

The original article was heavily criticised for speculating on the identity of the actor, and said his lawyers were preparing themselves for a “raft of potential legal claims”.

The Mirror article said: “I’m only sorry he won’t find it impossible to get treatment, that he won’t have to come out as gay in an intolerant community, and that his family won’t abandon him to rot in a squat.

“I’m sorry I can’t strangle him with a cheap condom he couldn’t be bothered to use, and I can only hope his former lovers sue him so hard that he does at least die in the same misery, poverty and pain as so many others do.”

The NAT’s complaint said the article “encourages prejudice against all people living with HIV”.

It went on to say that it “has a direct impact on people living with HIV in the UK, many of whom already experience unlawful discrimination, harassment and hate crime, purely because of their medical diagnosis.”

The article in the Mirror also compared the HIV diagnosis of the Hollywood celebrity to people living in Lesotho with HIV.

It said: “I’m only sorry that I can’t make him switch places with a 15-year-old rape victim from Lesotho who didn’t ask for any of it and deserves a chance to make something of her life.”

The NAT writes: “These statements are not empowering to people who are experiencing the brunt of global health inequalities. Rather, women and girls living with HIV in Lesotho are used as rhetorical weapons to punish the celebrity for engaging in behaviour which the author disapproves of.”

It also criticises the article for containing inaccurate information about HIV.

The original article reads: “They’ll hate him because he allegedly had unprotected sex despite knowing he could infect partners with a disease that, without help, could kill them horribly.”

Going on, the charity complains that the Mirror article also suggests that “only some people living with HIV are deserving of sympathy”.

The NAT has called for the Mirror to withdraw the piece and issue an apology.

The charity writes: “We would remind The Mirror that in the UK HIV is legally considered a disability from the point of diagnosis, under The Equality Act 2010.”

“People living with HIV have a right to privacy about their personal medical records. There is no public interest to be gained from pressuring a high profile individual into discussing any medical condition in public.”

It concludes: “In NAT’s experience, The Mirror’s has a record of accurate and constructive reporting on HIV and issues affecting people living with HIV. We hope that the publication of this opinion piece is an aberration, which can be addressed by its withdrawal and a statement of apology.”