Letter: Aids 'myth' is a grim reality

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Sir: As a gay man concerned about the well-being of other gay men during the Aids epidemic, I was distressed to read Christopher Spence's letter (4 December) attacking your very sensible leading article ('Realism about Aids', 2 December) and the 'myth of 'high-risk groups' '.

While all sexually active people are indeed at risk of HIV infection if they practise unsafe sex, they are certainly not all at equal risk. Because of the relatively high prevalence of HIV among gay men, particularly in London, a gay man having unsafe sex stands a much greater risk of contracting or passing on HIV than virtually anyone else. To this extent, gay men are indeed a high-risk group in the UK. Attempts to draw comparisons with other countries with very different epidemics are simply misleading.

The benevolent concept of high-risk groups only becomes problematic if it is abused as a tool to single out particular social constituencies for prejudice and blame. Acknowledging the existence of high-risk groups enables prevention resources to be properly directed to where they are most needed. Dismissing their existence as a 'myth' can only perpetuate the neglect of safer sex campaigns for those most at risk, and is itself likely to cost lives.

Yours sincerely,


London, W2

5 December