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The Sun's 'Hollywood actor with HIV' story is criticised for spreading stigma

The newspaper claimed Hollywood was 'gripped with fear' over the unnamed man's alleged diagnosis

By Lizzie Dearden

Published 11/11/2015

The Sun's coverage of the story
The Sun's coverage of the story

The Sun has been accused of undoing years of work battling HIV stigma with a story claiming a “superstar” actor has been diagnosed with the illness.

The report, which did not name the man, appeared on the newspaper’s front page today with the headline “Hollywood HIV panic”.

“Hollywood was gripped with fear last night after a womanising A-list actor was diagnosed with HIV,” the story read, going on to discuss anonymous “high-profile sexual partners” who may be planning legal claims following the actor’s alleged diagnosis.

It appears to be the same story reported by Radar Online as a “bombshell world exclusive” earlier this month.

The website reported that the actor was undergoing treatment, naming drugs including one that prevents HIV transmission.

As speculation over the actor’s identity spread on social media, some Twitter users appealed to people not to be swept up in the “scare” story.

“Bearing in mind all the years of education and campaigns to overcome the stigma of HIV and Aids, The Sun sticks THAT on its front page?” Michael J. Poulter wrote.

“Whoever this HIV positive Hollywood actor is... Is it really any of our business?” another user asked.

Many were pointing out that continued stigma surrounding the illness prevents people getting tested.

Adam Lake tweeted to The Sun: “Huge factor in HIV rise is not testing due to stigma. Well done for undoing years of hard work from HIV community. Gobsmacked.”

HIV attacks the immune system, weakening sufferers’ ability to fight infections and disease, and can develop into Aids.

The virus, diganosed with a free blood test, is carried in bodily fluids and is most commonly transmitted through sex without a condom, as well as sharing infected needles.

Sufferers are given antiretroviral drugs that stop HIV replicating and damaging the body further, while regular exercise and healthy eating can also help manage the illness.

“Although there is no cure for HIV, treatments are now very effective, enabling people with HIV to live long and healthy lives,” a spokesperson for the NHS said.

“Without treatment, the immune system will become severely damaged and life-threatening illnesses such as cancer and severe infections can occur.”

An estimated 100,000 people live with HIV in the UK, according to HIV aware, and one in five of those are believed to be undiagnosed.

For more information on HIV and Aids, visit the NHS website or contact charity the Terrence Higgins Trust.


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