UK

The Sun's HIV Hollywood Actor Story Is An 'Insidious Headline Grab', Campaigners Say

11/11/2015 10:30 GMT | Updated 11/11/2015 14:59 GMT

The Sun newspaper has been criticised for stigmatising HIV after speculating on the status of a "superstar" Hollywood actor on its front page on Wednesday.

The paper reported that the male star has known he carries the disease for a number of years and is thought to have had "a host of high-profile sexual partners". It also claimed his lawyers are preparing for a "raft of potential legal claims".

But HIV campaigners and rights groups have slammed The Sun's "irresponsible" and "insidious" reporting saying it undoes "years of hard work" in reducing stigma, often a major barrier to testing and treatment.

BLOG: "Thanks to The Sun's screaming front page, the star in question now knows that rather a lot of people are playing an unpleasant game of 'guess who?'"

Twitter users were quick to express their dismay at the style and scale of the reports - and its implications.

An earlier report on entertainment website Radar Online included lurid details about the star's personal life not carried by The Sun.

But the Rupert Murdoch-owned paper included rampant speculation on the star's previous sexual partners and commentary from unnamed "US showbiz insiders".

It used a historic statement previously provided to the paper from Terrence Higgins Trust to provide the story with facts around the development of HIV treatment.

But the Trust reacted with anger to the piece on Wednesday, with Shaun Griffin, Executive Director External Affairs, telling HuffPost UK: “At its best this is irresponsible journalism, at its worst an insidious headline grab. It is impossible to comment on the details here because there aren’t any.

“However we can counter the lack of veracity with fact. The fact is that for anyone diagnosed with HIV, they are given treatment that reduces the amount of HIV virus to an “undetectable” amount and this means HIV cannot be passed on.

"The fact is that it is utterly wrong to disclose an individuals HIV status without their permission – though what we are provided with enough information here to effectively identify them.

“Even with the advances made in HIV testing and treatment, this shows that unfounded prejudices still remain. It is attitudes like these that perpetuate HIV stigma.

“Stigma is a dangerous construct and we’ve seen that it has a damaging effect on individuals and on public health. It can deter people from accessing testing or treatment, and can isolate a person living with HIV causing anxiety or depression.”

An estimated 100,000 people live with HIV in the UK, with one in five believed to be undiagnosed.

The Terrence Higgins Trust provides support to those concerned about HIV on its website.