Misinformation on HIV transmission from Mirror, MEN, and GMP


Both the Mirror and the Manchester Evening News have published outrageously misinformed reports regarding a charity worker

facing an anxious New Year as she waits for tests results to find out if she has contracted the disease after being assaulted on Tuesday night.

Manchester Evening News

The two stories have similar headlines:

manchestereveningnews

Charity worker spat at by HIV-positive homeless man vows to carry on volunteering

and

daily_mirror

Charity worker waits for test results after HIV-positive homeless man spat in her face

However, I am sure the journalists involved (Beth Abbit and John Kelly) will simply say that they were reporting the story as told to them. However, I am equally sure that they would be aiming to abide by the code of conduct of the NUJ (regardless of whether they are members of not). This code of conduct states that

A journalist:

  1. At all times upholds and defends the principle of media freedom, the right of freedom of expression and the right of the public to be informed.
  2. Strives to ensure that information disseminated is honestly conveyed, accurate and fair.
  3. Does her/his utmost to correct harmful inaccuracies.

I am not convinced that the stories above meet both point 2 and point 3. But it is not just the journalists that need to check their facts

Advice from Police seems faulty

gmp-police-logo

It seems that the Greater Manchester Police advised the victim to take an HIV test incase the assailant had problems with his gums and therefore blood in his mouth. However, this is not a route of HIV transmission. The virus cannot be transmitted through saliva (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).

The National AIDS Trust (in the UK) wants to reassure people that spitting is not a route of HIV transmission. A spokesman said,

There has never been a reported case of HIV transmission from spitting – even when there is blood in the mouth.

As I commented on the MEN story,

Very disappointed to read this misleading article. Whilst I appreciate that you are reporting what has been told to you by the victim, it would be better to make clear earlier in the story that spitting is not a route of HIV transmission. You may find it useful to liaise with the National AIDS Trust who have a great document of guidelines on how to report issues surrounding HIV.

I hope that both papers and the police take more care in the future.

The two stories can be found here:

Daily Mirror: http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/charity-worker-waits-test-results-7105789

Manchester Evening News: http://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/greater-manchester-news/charity-worker-homeless-piccadilly-hiv-10671762

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