Letters: The spread of Aids

How drug prohibition encourages the spread of Aids
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Ed Howker's article "We can't go on prohibiting drugs" (9 March) makes no mention of the impact of drug prohibition on HIV rates.

Millions are infected or at risk because of unsafe injecting. HIV prevention programmes still fail to reach most injecting drug-users. We need an environment that ensures people can receive the information and support they need to avoid contracting HIV and passing it to others.

Harm-reduction groups from India and USA are harassed by police at needle exchange sites, and drug users are arrested attempting to access clean syringes. This simply makes users more likely to share needles.

Susie McLean

International HIV/AIDS Alliance


If all recreational drugs were re-legalised and sold in regulated business establishments for pennies per dose, crime would decline dramatically.

And I believe that our overall hard drug usage rates would decline substantially. Drug dealers as we know them today would disappear for economic reasons. The first time almost all drug users use a particular drug, they don't buy it; either a friend or dealer gives it to them. Most retail drug dealers are addicts themselves. They sell drugs to finance their own habit and recruit new users by offering free samples. With the end of prohibition, this practice would end.

Kirk Muse

Mesa, Arizona, USA

Luton Muslims condemn protest

The Luton Council of Mosques, the representative body for the Muslims of Luton and surrounding areas, strongly condemns the behaviour of a few egocentric individuals during the return parade of soldiers. Their actions were ill-advised and wholly misguided.

Although the Iraq war is viewed by many British people (Muslim or not) as being unjust, the soldiers cannot be held responsible for the decisions made by the Government. The protesters should utilise the democratic process to air their grievances. Attacking the soldiers who have risked their lives for our country and the right for all of us to have the freedom we enjoy cannot be correct.

It appears this tiny minority will stop at nothing to get attention. They have tried unsuccessfully in the past to disrupt the Holocaust Memorial Day and the Luton Faith Walk, events which are aiming to enhance understanding and value of all citizens irrespective of their faith. The LCM has always been supportive of all initiatives that brings communities together and improves understanding and respect. We therefore entirely reject any message that causes discord and discomfort in community relations.

Dr Fiaz Hussain

Luton Council of Mosques

There were many in Britain who were against us going to war in Iraq, as shown at the numerous stop-the-war rallies at the time. What was worrying was the divide in opinion at the rallies as to why we shouldn't go to war. Most Muslims stated that the prime objection was that we were attacking Muslims in another country: the remaining protesters were of the opinion that the risk of human collateral in general was too high.

To place religion over one's loyalty to country puts the United Kingdom seriously at risk of internal dissent. Britain has been involved in numerous global conflicts which have resulted in local groups protesting, generally based along patriotic loyalties to the countries involved. What we are seeing now is objection to British involvement in any foreign country that is predominantly Muslim; a very worrying trend.

We cannot deal with this by pandering to the wishes of a few militant Islamists who wish to usurp all the democratic values that allow them to insult the very people who are out bravely defending the democracy they so freely enjoy.

This week we have seen the imprisonment under Sharia law of Sayed Pervez Kambaksh in Afghanistan for downloading literature from the internet on women's rights. I can only imagine the outcry in this country if one of those Luton protesters were today facing a 20-year prison sentence for banner-waving.

Peter M Bradley

London SW2

John Hutton, in accusing the Luton protesters of "insulting comments", reveals his government's hypocritical attitude to soldiers.

While I cannot condone the protesters' hate-filled and personalised rhetoric, they have insulted soldiers on a much more minor scale than John Hutton himself. Along with Blair, Brown and the rest, Hutton happily sent thousands of soldiers to face danger and death in a futile war based on deceptive claims about weapons of mass destruction.

Rather than denouncing the soldiers as individuals, or cheering military parades designed to smooth over the Government's disastrous foreign policies, we must continue to expose the reality of a war that has needlessly wasted so many lives – whether British, Iraqi or American.

Symon Hill

London SE4

For some people criticism of the armed forces is taboo. Hence the shouts of "scum" directed at anti-war protesters.

The invasion of Iraq was illegal and criminal, and the occupation was only retrospectively legitimised by the UN. The record of British soldiery in Iraq is far from unblemished as the death of Baha Moussa, the Basra hotel receptionist, and subsequent cover-up, and the abuse at Camp Breadbasket testify.

The charge of "scum" is naive, simplistic, ignorant and racist when it ignores the other side of the coin. Western interference in Iraq has claimed the lives of two million people through sanctions, military operations and internal power struggles. To hold those responsible to account is not scum-like or extreme: it is justice.

Stephen Jackson

Bexhill on Sea, East Sussex

Although I applaud your tendency to even-handedness in the reporting of contentious matters, I think your description (12 March) of the demonstrators in Luton as "anti-war" and of those who took exception as "pro-war" is misleading and, I'm afraid, craven. These people aren't anti-war; they are pro the other side.

Chris Campbell

London E10

Lisbon treaty does Europe no good

Roland Rudd ("If Europe wants to be relevant, it needs an elected president", 2 March) talks about Nicolas Sarkozy having "cobbled together a deal on the Lisbon treaty, whereby Ireland, having rejected it, will vote again in October", as if that were a good thing.

The Irish people – just like the French and the Dutch before them – democratically said "No" to this treaty in a referendum last June, and yet are now supposed to be grateful for a fudged deal which will see them voting again on exactly the same text, while EU leaders pretend it is different. Quite how can this can be considered a positive example of President Sarkozy's stint at the EU helm should be beyond anyone who has even the slightest respect for democracy.

If Europe really does want to be relevant, it must abandon its never-ending obsession with internal institutional detail, which baffles its own citizens, let alone the rest of the world, and wake up to the real, and far more pressing problems we face.

Lorraine Mullally

Director, Open Europe London SW1

Rare need to hold inquests in private

Simon Carr has not fully understood the provisions in the Coroners and Justice Bill relating to private inquests, judging by his piece "Holding inquests in secret – that'll shut everyone up" (25 February). Exceptionally, it might be necessary to keep sensitive information private, but it is wrong to suggest that all cases involving the police or the military would be held out of the public eye.

The proposed legislation will be used on the rare occasion there is an exceptional need to protect sensitive material or other matters which are central to an inquest but which cannot be disclosed publicly. It is vital to balance these issues – particularly where the lives of sources of information and citizens might be put at risk – with the requirement for inquests to take place.

Bridget Prentice

Minister for Justice, London SW1

Public information amid the TV drama

Deborah Orr (7 March) didn't much care for the public information ads in between the "superb drama Red Riding".

So next time I hear of someone whose child has been killed by a careless driver, or I have to deal with someone having a stroke, I'll just say, in a petulant tone, "Pwah! that was on telly and interrupted a superb drama, and 'cos it was like Harriet Harman nagging me, I didn't take any notice. So I can't empathise, learn or take action. That showed 'em! No one's going to tell me what to watch or think."

Perhaps Ms Orr would have preferred ads about equity release, debt management or Davina McCall telling us about her hair dye or Andie McDowell showing her secret of looking so really truly young?

Next time, do make a cup of tea or whatever. Or is that too much like telling you to check your fire alarm?

Gina Jolliffe

Brixham, Devon

Too slow to act on domestic violence

Not enough is being done by the Government to prevent domestic violence. While welcoming what the Home Secretary proposes, I fear that the proposals are too little, too late.

As Sandra Horley highlighted ("Gimmicks like Jacqui Smith's won't help battered women", 11 March), the Home Affairs Committee has recommended a number of proposals to stop domestic violence, many of which have been included in the recent initiatives, but the recent recommendations were made in June last year. According to our findings 76 women will have been murdered since then as a consequence of domestic violence. This is not good enough.

Keith Vaz MP

Chairman, Home Affairs Select Committee, House of Commons

Niggardly mantra from Sinn Fein

Thank you for Tom Sutcliffe's wonderful evaluation of Gerry Adams' response to the appalling tragedy in Northern Ireland last weekend (10 March).

We are constantly regaled with various Sinn Fein mantras that mean nothing to anyone except themselves. The latest niggardly apologia rearranges the scenario in a way that old Kremlin apparatchiks would call new necessities. The fact is that the leaders of Sinn Fein know who these dissidents are, and if you believe they will assist in bringing them to justice you might as well believe in the tooth fairy.

Desmond Graham

Carcassonne, France


We all have secrets

Given the pious hauteur with which you dismissed Max Mosley's views on privacy in Wednesday's editorial, can we take it that no one working at The Independent has ever indulged in "alternative" sexual practices or kept secrets from their partners or spouses? If they have, I think we should be told.

Ian Richards


Hamas mandate

In an editorial ("Blair's visit to Gaza opens a door", 2 March) you write that "the donor states" will "not give Hamas the legitimacy it seeks". It is not for such states to confer or deny any such legitimacy. Legitimacy was conferred on Hamas by the people of Gaza in a democratic election monitored and ratified by the very same states.

Stan Brennan

London N8

Power of Potter

Doraine Potts, (letter, 11 March) takes Steve Connor to task for identifying Sir Michael Gambon as "the Harry Potter actor". John Hurt used to drink in my local pub, and I pointed him out to a younger friend of mine. "Who?" she asked. "You know, The Naked Civil Servant? Midnight Express? Elephant Man? These titles were all met with a blank face. "The wand salesman in Harry Potter?" "Oh him, he's great."

Joseph Mattey

London W1

Surely, if all Independent readers knew who Michael Gambon was, you would have described him as legendary.

Mark Miller

Dalton in Furness, Cumbria

Point of a red nose

I was saddened to read Janet Street-Porter's article on Red Nose Day (11 March). If there are two things we really need now, they are to be reminded how relatively fortunate we are as individuals and as a society, and simply to be cheered up. I also consider Red Nose Day an important means of developing our children's appreciation of giving.

Ann Giles


Real things unseen

Helen Cooper (letter, 12 March) asks for the evidence that Richard Dawkins' alleged "insensitivity to religious experience" is not the same as other people's colour-blindness. The "evidence" is that the existence of the wavelengths for which some people's retinas lack sensitivity can actually be demonstrated.

Peter McKenna

Liverpool Humanist Group