Aids Avenger priest insists story is true

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The Independent Online
FATHER Michael Kennedy, the priest at the centre of the Aids Avenger scare in Ireland, hit back at his critics yesterday to insist his story of a woman deliberately spreading the HIV virus was true.

After a week of mounting scepticism and rumours of a hoax, he emerged from a self-imposed silence to state: "I don't regret the message I spoke from the pulpit."

His only regret was in not issuing a statement of clarification afterwards. "I feel sad that I'm being discredited. Because I could not give names, now they're trying to say it's just a total pack of lies. But the story is true."

At last Sunday's Mass in Dungarvan, County Waterford, Father Kennedy had warned that five local men had contracted HIV from a 25-year-old woman. He had tracked her down to discover that "in her anger" at having the infection she had irresponsibly slept with up to 80 men in south-east Ireland between last November and March. She is now dying of Aids in a London clinic and is "full of remorse".

Parishioners praised the priest for alerting them to the danger, but Aids experts immediately questioned the likelihood that one woman was responsible for so many cases. The doubts were further increased when it emerged late on Friday that another woman, who claims to have caught the virus from a boyfriend who had slept with the so-called Aids Avenger, had a history of depressive illness.

Looking tired and drained, Father Kennedy said all he had tried to do was be helpful. He could not reveal the identities of the young men, aged 20 to 28, or the aliases which they gave when they travelled to Britain for Aids tests, because that would be a breach of the confidence placed in him. They would be contacting the local health board when the fuss had died down.

Father Kennedy said: "What was said from the altar to give a warning and ask people to be more responsible has taken on a whole different agenda."

He dismissed some of the Aids experts who had spoken during the week, claiming that one consultant who was treating the dying woman in London had told him that many of their statements were wrong.