This wasn’t a slip of the tongue, a foot-in-mouth episode or an accidental bumble. This choice of words was calculated, deliberate and intentional. Farage has chosen to use HIV as yet another scapegoat because of the fear in the British public, a fear that still exists three decades since the virus was discovered because of successive government’s failures in delivering sufficient education and knowledge about HIV and AIDS. Farage could have picked many illnesses, but in selecting HIV he has chosen to play on the ignorance and stigma that people like me face every day.
You only have to spend five minutes reading some of the comments on the various articles that have popped up since Newsweek published their interview with Farage on 9th October to be more than worried that already too many people have bought, in what can only be described as bullshit, the words from his mouth.
I’m not naïve to think that my own diagnosis hasn’t cost the NHS anything, I know my drugs aren’t free, but on the advent of generics being released to the worldwide markets the drugs are going to be cheaper than they have ever been. Aside from the pills what else am I costing them? Two visits a year to a hospital, I know very ‘healthy’ people who visit the hospital or their GP more often than that.
In relative terms HIV costs are nothing compared to the larger issues facing the NHS, and these larger issues have nothing to do with immigration or an increase of ‘poor quality’ people arriving in the UK. We face the legacy of the damage caused by the tobacco industry, even now with less than 20% of people in the UK smoking the health of those who have already given up is likely to be compromised. Public Health England estimated in 2013 that alcohol related incidents were costing the NHS £3.5billion each year. Furthermore we’re an aging population and living longer, and as we live longer the costs associated with illness such as dementia and cancers are increasing too.
But I’m digressing, this argument shouldn’t be narrowed down to economics, it’s about social attitudes to people who are different to whatever Farage and his cronies would consider “normal” or “quality”. Do we really want to live in a society where the only thing that’s important is the economic contributions of a human being above and over the worth of their social and cultural ones?
People living with HIV offer as much to society as those who are HIV-negative, or don’t know their status. Living with HIV doesn’t mean we are unable to work, unable to have families or have an inability to contribute to the culture and fabric of our communities. We have skills and we are strong and brave. We have to be because of the attitudes held by people like those seen supporting the comments made by Farage. I have become friends with positive people across the world, all of them have something special to offer. We are all Quality People Living with HIV.
I’m disgusted by the comment regarding HIV. But Farage’s second remark concerns me further, “That’s a good start”. I’m disturbed because I believe him, if he had his way it seems he’d start with people living with HIV, but where would it end. Europe has suffered the consequences of one man’s obsession with a ‘master race’ before, I’m not suggesting the horrors witnessed in the Holocaust are about to happen again but a vile immigration policy based on the discrimination of people because of their race, ethnicity or HIV/health status is one step closer with each and every vote UKIP receive.