HIV+ Synonymous with Africans in UK as opposed to any other ethnic group

It does not come as a surprise to me to note the comments made by Edwin Poots, a senior health minister in Northern Ireland about a ban on blood donations from gay people also being applied to people who have sex “with somebody in Africa or sex with prostitutes”.

It does not come as a surprise to me to note the comments made by Edwin Poots,

Mr Poots is voicing what so many persons within the healthcare industry practice without concealed discretion – only that they do not get to reach the global media exposure.

The other aspect to such voiced prejudice is that it shows the weaknesses in the system that exists with blood screening facilities which would insinuate such facilities if they exist, purely on ethnicity screening or sexual preferences! A point picked up by Mr Conall McDevitt, South Belfast SDLP assembly member, when he further concludes:

Currently all blood donations are subject to rigorous screening for a number of diseases – including HIV – and no blood is used unless it is approved, regardless of the donor. The fact is that we are in constant need of extra blood stocks in the North and this reinforces the need for the government to do all in its power to encourage as many as possible to donate rather than seek to alienate healthy donors based on prejudice. The minister’s comments perpetuate a tired mythology of cultural promiscuity in the gay community which troubles me as an advocate of a more accepting, shared society I would go further to add to defend Africans too.

The repercussions of such prejudicial/ignorant acts and words is quite harmful to Africans who being labelled as “diseased” simply because there happens to be persons who aside from escaping political persecution from their countries are also fleeing socio-economic hardships. Financial hardships make it difficult for such persons to receive medical care in their homelands. Some of you might have heard of medical tourists? Well, some of these Africans are medical migrants. It does not necessary mean that all of AFrica is diseased – simply that those able to afford to travel abroad to seek help, are the ones predominantly seen in healthcare centres abroad. Most Africans are very healthy and busy just like many other migrant workers working at building economies in these adoptive countries and their homelands and do not need added prejudicial baggage such as voiced or practiced.

Part of what prompted me to write this was a memory of what transpired to a friend of mine last year… He attended his GP surgery presenting with a rash on his penis. The GP having deduced from the initial questioning and possible physical presentation/appearance that he was black, referred him directly to an STD (sexually transmitted diseases) clinic attached to West Middlesex Hospital. Now this took place irrespective to the answered questions that my friend had been in a long-term relationship where neither himself nor his partner had engaged in sexual activities with any other persons, be it in the UK or Africa in the time-scale of their relationship or previous. My friend had in fact had an HIV test just at the start of that particular relationship which for both of them had returned negative results. Still – to be on the safe side and to adhere to his GP’s request, he attended the STD, bracing himself for further intrusive questions enough to make him doubt his current relationship in addition to his sanity. Repeated samples were sent away to be analysed for all possible STDs after once again ruling out HIV. It seemed possible (to them) the laboratory equipment was not functioning properly, as they couldn’t quite believe that this black African man with a rash on his penis didn’t have some form of sexually transmitted disease from his assumed rampant sexual behaviour or of his partner (whom they never once contacted to counsel even at the prompting of my friend). Still, they opted to treat him blindly with medication favoured for STDs irrespective of the results returning no abnormality on all occasions. His rash meanwhile was getting worse and infected…To summise, his rash eventually cleared … was found to have been down to irritants used in laundry as opposed to perceived promiscuity of his ethnic background. You might ask why he never made a complaint of such treatment – I suspect as most persons these days reason – they have become despondent with how their complaints are treated or regarded.

Now imagine if my friend had been rash to jump the bandwagon of suspicion fuelled from the medical practitioners who made him question/doubt that if he hadn’t brought the STD to the relationship, then his partner had a case to answer!