Following on from the previous post, GMG complain to Metro Newspaper, we received a response from the IPSO. In summary, it stated…

I write further to our earlier email regarding your complaint about an article headlined “Healthcare warning as HIV patients live longer”, published by Metro on 25 November 2019.

When IPSO receives a complaint, the Executive staff review it first to decide whether the complaint falls within our remit, and whether it raises a possible breach of the Editors’ Code of Practice. We have read your complaint carefully, and have decided that it does not raise a possible breach of the Editors’ Code.

The article reported on the fact that global health services are not prepared to support the healthcare needs of people with HIV as people with the condition’s life expectancy is increasing.

You said that the article breached Clause 12 (Discrimination) because the headline was inflammatory in order to gain views at the expense of those with HIV. Clause 12 is designed to protect specific individuals mentioned by the press from discrimination based on their race, colour, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation or any physical or mental illness or disability. It does not apply to groups or categories of people. Your concern that the article discriminated against people with HIV in general did not relate to an individual. This meant that it did not engage the terms of this Clause.

Our response

Thank you for your email of 3rd December.

We are disappointed that the IPSO did not consider the article published in the Metro Newspaper on 25th November, headlined “Healthcare warning as HIV patients live longer” was a breach of the Editors’ Code.

We still maintain that the headline was alarmist and implied that we posed a threat to the NHS. Our members have also conveyed the same opinion as have other HIV organisations in London.

Although the article itself was more reasonable, there was still a tone that we are a liability. Would it be acceptable for the Metro newspaper to say that disabled people were a burden? Under the Equality Act 2010, HIV people are classified as disabled, thus, the headline attempts to cast a bad light on a group as a whole. Additionally, the NHS is under increasing strain from an aging population in general and it is unjust to single out HIV people.

On Sunday 1st December was World AIDS Day and our members have shared a list people they’ve lost. This list went into the 100s. We survived because of the dedicated work of healthcare professionals and now we can look forward to a relatively normal life that won’t be cut short because of a virus. The headline in the Metro newspaper seems to take exception to that.

UNAIDS and the World Health Organization (WHO) cites fear of stigma and discrimination as the main reason why people are reluctant to get tested, disclose their HIV status and take antiretroviral drugs (ARVs).

One study found that participants who reported high levels of stigma were over four times more likely to report poor access to care. This contributes to the expansion of the global HIV epidemic and a higher number of AIDS-related deaths.

Michel Sidibé, Executive Director of UNAID, said that whenever AIDS has won, stigma, shame, distrust, discrimination and apathy was on its side. Every time AIDS has been defeated, it has been because of trust, openness, dialogue between individuals and communities, family support, human solidarity, and the human perseverance to find new paths and solution.

Hysterical and ill-considered newspaper headlines, such as that in the Metro, only threaten that openness and fuel prejudice.

We request that you review your decision.

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