Rights and responsibilities in HIV prevention

BMJ 1996; 313 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.313.7052.303b (Published 03 August 1996) Cite this as: BMJ 1996;313:303

Article was misleading

  1. Paul Bailey
  1. Medecin attache (psychiatry) 6 rue Beau Village, F-68730 Blotzheim, France

    EDITOR,—Renee Danziger refers to an “uncanny consensus” regarding the need to protect individual human rights in responding to the AIDS epidemic.1 She seems not to have considered that the consensus might not be uncanny but might merely be correct. In any case, although her article argues against freedom and in favour of coercion, she never specifies what form this coercion should take. If Brazilian men cannot be educated to have safe sex because of the “dominant, masculine sexual culture” what form of coercion might be applied? Is Danziger suggesting an Orwellian television camera in each bedroom?

    The few allusions that Danziger makes to coercive measures are hardly reassuring. Russia has a long history of persecuting homosexuals, and its policy of compulsorily testing visitors for HIV infection has been widely criticised, as has the United States' policy of refusing entry to visitors known to be HIV positive. Cuba's policy of forcibly separating HIV positive people from their partners and locking them up is so inhumane that Danziger should be ashamed of her support for it, though she takes care to hedge her bets: the policy “seems justified” (is it or isn't it?) since “Cuba's epidemic seems to be relatively small scale.” If she has any objective reliable evidence that this brutal Cuban policy has reduced the incidence of AIDS in the country then I should like to see it.

    Finally, the comments of Michelangelo Signorile that she quotes are clearly intended to provide an argument in favour of individual responsibility rather than coercion. I believe that he would object to seeing his remarks in an article that, while encouraging “shifting the terms of the debate,” in fact advocates restricting the basic rights of people with AIDS and those in high risk groups.

    Danziger's article contains virtually no facts or concrete proposals; much of it is innuendo, which at times becomes misleading—such as the vague implication that AIDS can now be treated. As a gay physician who has lost his partner and several close friends to AIDS I find its publication in the BMJ deeply offensive.


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