Today I was deeply disturbed to read the following article in The Age by journalist Mark Russell covering the death of one partner after stabbing in the context of a consensual slave/master relationship.
Most concerning was that Mr Russell felt it was deems necessary to not only disclose both parties HIV status but also other medical details that clearly not involved with the actual case or needed in the reporting. How does the public benefit from this additional information?
Mr [name a], who was HIV positive and had heart and lung disease and emphysema, then moved into Mr [name b]’s house.
Mr [name a] was given the bigger bedroom with a double bed, walk-in wardrobes, ensuite bathroom and bidet while Mr [name b], who had HIV and hepatitis B, lived in a room with a single bed.
Essentially what has occurred is that both parties private medical issues have now been made public record. While I acknowledge these details will have become evident via testamony I beg to ask the relevance of reporting these details if for nothing more then adding more salicious details to an already salicous story.
This is clearly not a good example of how to deal with personal health information in the media. HIV is intensely private and did not need to be reported. May suggest that Mr Russell avail himself to the HIV Media Guidelines.
People with HIV routinely experience discrimination – and sometimes violence – due to their HIV-positive status.
A person’s HIV status should not be disclosed without their explicit permission unless it is already a matter of public record (for example, in court proceedings) – and even then it is important to consider whether the person’s HIV status is at all relevant to the matter.
If permission to disclose a person’s HIV status is being sought, the journalist has a responsibility to ensure that the person understands the potential repercussions of the disclosure.
Dr George Forgan-Smith