Letter: How fear and ignorance cloud the debate about the age of consent

Click to follow
The Independent Online
Sir: I am writing to express the horrow with which I read Lady Olga Maitland's arguments ('Face to face in the homosexual debate', 20 January). Her statement: 'You are likely to catch Aids from homosexual acts', is chilling in the phobic ignorance it manifests.

Firstly, nobody can 'catch' Aids. It is a syndrome, not a disease. It is the HIV virus, and not Aids, which my be contracted through sex, and the two are not synonymous.

Secondly, it is simply not true that homosexual 'acts' are freighted with more danger than heterosexual ones. Lady Maitland is failing to distinguish between an action and the manner in which it is carried out. There is safe sex and there is risky sex, and neither is the exclusive domain of a particular sexual nature. Lady Maitland seems not to grasp that unsafe sex can be, and is, practised by straight and gay people alike, that vaginal and anal penetration carry similar risks of HIV infection. Does she really mean to suggest that a gay couple who use a condom are putting themselves at more risk than a straight couple who don't use one?

The kind of convictions expressed by Lady Maitland, as a person with public influence, perpetuate a fallacy that breeds fear, and from fear comes hatred. When she suggests that difference is perversion, when she forces an equation between homosexuality and sickness, she is preaching poison. If she does not clear the prejudice and misinformation from her view, she will do great harm and little good.

Yours faithfully,



20 January