The Daily Mail has been accused of “outright homophobia” after describing a revolutionary pill that could eradicate HIV as a “lifestyle drug”.
An MP called the front page story “dangerous shit”, after the newspaper attacked yesterday’s court ruling to make the “game changing” preventative drug PrEP available on the NHS.
The Mail complained of a “skewed sense of values” behind the decision to fund what it called a “£5,000-a-year lifestyle drug”.
It implied the medicine should not be funded when treatments for cancer and cataracts are “rationed”.
The pills will be given to healthy men at risk of HIV, and can reduce the chances of contracting the potentially life-threatening virus by more than 90%. It has been called a “wonder drug” that could “end HIV within a generation”.
But the Mail argued PrEP could “encourage men to have sex with multiple partners” and said there were concerns “scarce” NHS money would be better spent on other causes like cataracts.
It quoted Christian groups saying PrEP could encourage “sexual risk taking” and “facilitate more risky sexual lifestyles.”
The Mail cited claims PrEP “may even lead to higher HIV rates as it is not 100 per cent effective” and implied those at risk of HIV were less deserving of funding when “cataract surgery costs just £800 an eye and enables patients to leave their homes unaided and recognise loved ones’ faces”.
It added that the PrEP ruling delayed decisions on funding for other drugs “including for children with cystic fibrosis”.
Commenters called the story an “attack” on gay people and pointed out that PrEP is “no more a lifestyle drug than the contraceptive pill”.
MP Steven McDonald said he “thought we’d passed this dangerous shit”.
The MP for Glasgow South, who is gay, described the Mail’s story as “thinly veiled homophobia”.
Natasha Devon, the Government’s former children’s mental health tsar, called the newspaper “bastards” saying, “they just saw an opportunity to suggest contracting HIV is a ‘lifestyle choice’ [and therefore] not worthy of investment.”
Oliver Duff, the editor of the i newspaper, wrote that we should “Beware moralising about ‘lifestyle choices’”.
“We hear these arguments on abortion,” he said in an editorial on Wednesday.
“Roughly 6,000 people test positive for HIV in Britain every year. About half of them are gay or bisexual men.
“Prep reduces the risk of HIV infection by 86 per cent. Imagine the headlines if we had a drug that could do that to any cancer.”
Critics attacked the Mail online for implying HIV was a “lifestyle”:
Others pointed out that plenty of other illnesses and medical problems could be related to lifestyle, but the paper wasn’t complaining about them:
PrEP would save the NHS money and make “an enormous difference to the lives of men and women across the country” according to Deborah Gold of the National Aids Trust.
Despite saying the dug is expensive, the Mail itself reports that at £400 per patient per month, is “considerably cheaper” than the £15,000 a year it costs to treat a patient with HIV.
Critics accused the paper of “blaming” HIV patients for NHS shortages and government failings:
One said he believed the front page would “galvanise” abuse of LGBT people: