Letters: HIV/Aids epidemic

Drugs on their own won't solve the Aids crisis
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Steve Connor's article "Aids: is the end in sight?" (22 February) raises important questions regarding the HIV/Aids epidemic but fails to emphasise the essential issues which, on the whole, make Dr Brian Williams's proposals not only impractical but worryingly unethical.

Administering toxic drugs to every HIV positive person goes against the moral tenet that medical treatment should be provided for the benefits it offers to the individual and not because it might have positive health impacts for others. Moreover, the real possibility that many will fail to adhere to a rigid daily regime of drug taking which can prove particularly onerous in developing countries, will mean that this "solution" to the Aids epidemic will prove more a deadly distraction than anything else.

Although using anti-retroviral drugs for preventive measures, which is already practised under strategies to prevent mother-to-child infection, can form part of a solution to the HIV/Aids crisis, it is of concern that it can be seen as anything more than a component in a more far-reaching prevention strategy. Such a strategy must continue to focus on what we know works: education, condom use and a change in public attitude.

Sheetal Kumar

HIV/AIDS Information Officer, AVERT, Horsham

West Sussex

Better testing and treatment access are important, but they are a part of the jigsaw rather than the whole picture. Every country, including the UK, could improve testing and treatment access and this would reduce onward transmission. But many people pass the virus on in the early stages when they are most infectious but have no idea they have contracted HIV. Treatment keeps many people well and reduces transmission, but does not eliminate it entirely. Additionally, poor adherence to the drugs can produce strains of the virus that are resistant to the drugs.

These proposals would very much slow the spread of HIV in areas with generalised epidemics such as sub-Saharan Africa, but alongside testing and treatment, education on safer sex and access to condoms remain crucial if we are to contain the epidemic.

Lisa Power

Head of Policy, Terrence Higgins Trust

London, WC1

Brown: bully or political victim?

If someone who takes high political office is at times irascible, is that really so surprising ? Are we to deny that we have emotions, and when we care deeply we sometimes get angry?

For those daily breathing in the toxins of Westminster, like Andrew Rawnsley, all the gossip is I am sure riveting. But for the rest of the population what matters is the policies, not who shouted at who or grabbed someone's collar.

The various allegations of "abusive" behaviour strike me as no more than inflamed tittle-tattle. That seriously bad behaviour allegations against Brown come out at this time, with no record of discipline procedures, or resignations, strikes me as very suspicious.

Jeff Williams


If one looks back on the reign of New Labour, bullying seems to be at the heart of its doctrine, whether it be the forcible removal of the pensioner Walter Wolfgang from the Labour conference, the endless legal war waged against the peace protester Brian Haw, the vendetta against the BBC, the hounding of Dr Kelly, or the suspension of outspoken diplomats such as Craig Murray, Labour have always used strong-arm tactics to suppress dissent.

Gordon's Brown's image and style of leadership has done to this country what George Bush did for the way the US was perceived abroad. The sooner Brown is removed, either by general election, or by the usual back-stabbing by Cabinet colleagues, the better. Bullies always deserve their comeuppance.

Donald Lyven

London N3

I think we're mixing up "bully" and "bossy". Bullies operate in an underhand and sinister fashion to isolate and disadvantage their victims so that the bully has complete control.

Compare that with the actions of someone who is in control of a public operation and who knows precisely what he wants to achieve, and who lets people know, in no uncertain terms, when they are failing to meet expectations. At worst, you've got someone who is bossy.

Inappropriate use of the word "bully" is dangerous unless we want all managers in the workplace, all teachers in our schools and all parents in the home to have to think twice before having strong words with their charges.

G E Purser

Cheltenham, Gloucestershire

There is a fine line between strong management and bullying and it is easy for a manager or prime minister to cross that line without realising that such behaviour can be perceived as bullying. There is no such fine line if you operate a national helpline guaranteeing confidentiality and then breach that trust. Christine Pratt has committed a very serious error of judgement which could impact on other helplines.

Dennis Grattan


The current furore over the National Bullying Helpline and the reported activities at No 10 come at an interesting time in the world of staff welfare. There is an ongoing trend to replace in-house staff welfare officers in many government departments with employee assistance programme (EAP) telephone helplines.

A tried and tested method of delivering staff welfare is being dispensed with, and issues previously managed in-house are going outside the organisation.

While the vast majority of EAPs and telephone helplines are run on a very professional basis, there is always the risk that the all-important aspect of confidentiality is broken, with possible wide-reaching consequences. I understand and agree wholeheartedly with Professor Cary Cooper's decision to resign as a patron of the National Bullying Helpline.

There is much to be said for in-house welfare provision. The Public and Commercial Services Union and the Institute of Welfare are working together to try to save welfare posts and there is an early day motion in the House of Commons on the subject. Let us hope that their efforts are not in vain.

Sally Bundock

Welfare Officer, The National Archives, Director, Institute of Welfare, Richmond, Surrey

Tories warm to employee co-ops

The emergence of employee-ownership and co-operatives as a theme in Conservative Party election policy is a curious but welcome development. Labour, and particularly Ed Balls, would do well to review the intellectual sources underpinning the Conservative position, as they expose the intellectual weakness of New Labour's leadership on the issue of co-operative economics and participatory democracy.

However, if the argument for employee and co-operative ownership is so good, why is the policy only being suggested for public sector institutions? Why is David Cameron not championing this for the banks (as Mutuo are doing)? Why is he not arguing for workers to have a right to take over insolvent companies (as happens in Argentina and Venezuela)? Why is he not championing employee-ownership as a business succession policy (as both the Employee Ownership Association and Cooperatives UK argue)?

The UK is one of only four EU countries without co-operative law: an appalling indictment of a government that includes Cooperative Party MPs. Hopefully, the current news story will move them to action. New Labour need a credible position on this issue rather than a lame and unprepared response by Ed Balls.

Dr Rory Ridley-Duff

Sheffield Business School

Why is there a bonus to give up?

Lloyds TSB and RBS have made huge underlying losses, so how come their directors are "giving up their bonus", as if they were doing us a favour?

Surely a bonus would only accrue when they make vast sums of money – at least, that is what we have been told in the not too distant past, as the excuse for such largesse come bonus time. I can just about get my head around large profit, large bonus, but getting a bonus when you lose money? I wish that applied to my visits to the local turf accountant.

Dave Morgan

Beddington, Surrey

Why the world needs theology

David Smith (letter, 13 February) suggested that Dominic Lawson should have taken his critique of homeopathy a step further and included theology in the same criticism.

Around 30 years ago I heard a professor of theology, John Bowker, addressing a clergy conference, stress the vital importance of his subject at university level, since, "if there is a third world war its cause will almost certainly be religious". The events of the past 30 years have only served to confirm this prophecy.

How can politicians today "win the hearts and minds" of potential enemies without a good understanding of their theology. The state is absolutely right to support university theological faculties – regardless of the truth or otherwise of the doctrines they study.

Canon Andrew Warner

Andover, Hampshire

How local councils can save money

Like many councils, we are facing difficult choices on how to maintain public confidence in local services while adjusting to tough new financial realities ("Councils warn 20,000 workers will face redundancy ", 19 February). However, the debate around cuts versus investment is a diversion from the real issues.

We can make major savings over the next 10 years while still delivering high-quality services, but this can only be done if the public sector pools its resources and expertise and brings services together under one roof to strip out waste.

The total cost of public expenditure in Westminster is more than £2bn a year. Even just a 1 per cent reduction through sharing staff and infrastructure and more power over local spending decisions would save £20m.

Colin Barrow

Leader, Westminster City Council

The studios in Abbey Road

The recent news concerning the sale of the Abbey Road Studios has made me realise how widespread the misapprehension is that the studios were known by their present name during the years that the Beatles recorded there. In fact it was only following the release of the Abbey Road album that the studios began being referred to as "the Abbey Road Studios". Until then they had simply been the EMI studios in St John's Wood.

The "Abbey Road" album is not named after the studios, merely after the street the band were photographed crossing.

Brian Matthews

Sutton, Surrey


Mythical sobbing

Am I the only Independent reader who watched both Alastair Campbell's and the Prime Minister's interviews on TV and saw no tears, merely controlled emotion? Is the alleged sobbing to become a new myth foisted upon us by our beloved media?

Peter Metcalfe

Stevenage, Hertfordshire

Nation of immigrants

The article by Yasmin Alibhai-Brown "If you don't want immigrants" (22 February) and her suggestion that "previous arrivals and their descendants" should down tools, made me think that it would not leave many people actually working. As the grandson of Russian immigrants I would not be, and nor would grandchildren of all the Irish immigrants. This country is populated by descendants of immigrants from all over the world.

Morris Globe


Rule by compromise

Michael Heseltine warns of the "nightmare of a hung parliament." This is only a "nightmare" to the type of politician who believes that they should have the ability to enforce and enact their views without the need for consultation and compromise. Meanwhile, back in the real world, people have to negotiate, explain, and compromise every day in their professional and home lives. A situation where political parties had to do the same would lead to better governance.

Steve Travis


Sneering at issues

I cannot understand why, whenever anyone writes about Tony Benn, they refer to his belief that the "ishoos" are more important than personalities, with the quotation marks acting as a sneer (letter, 23 February). I've checked the pronunciation of "issue" in Chambers Dictionary, and found that ish-u, ish-oo and iss-u are all listed as correct. Clearly the pronunciation of this word is an important issue.

Jean Elliott

Upminster, Essex

Lettuce peril

"How can anyone be allergic to lettuce?" asks John Walsh (23 February). Well, I am, and not any lettuce – neither Little Gem, Loosehead, Romaine, Cos, Mizuna, nor Royal Oak Leaf, but only Iceberg. So put that in your salad bowl, John.

David J Sargant

Settle, North Yorkshire