“Graham Norton and his production company So Television have been reprimanded by the BBC after he wore a World Aids Day ribbon on air.”

Guess which news organisation that came from. Daily M*il? Daily Exp*ess? The S*n? Nope, it comes straight from the BBC’s own website. This is one thing you have to say about the BBC – it’s happy to attack itself! You ask yourself why this was such an issue for the corporation when World Aids Day is such a big international event. Well the Beeb informs us it’s because he was “in breach of BBC guidelines”. With the exception of Poppies for Remembrance Day the guidelines state, “The BBC must remain independent and distanced from government initiatives, campaigners, charities and their agendas, no matter how apparently worthy the cause or how much their message appears to be accepted or uncontroversial.”

I pay for the BBC, as does everyone else in this country and I’d like to say to Mark Linsey, the Entertainment Controller of the BBC that I am more than happy for Graham Norton to wear a red ribbon for World Aids Day. And if Huw Edwards wants to wear a daffodil for Macmillan Cancer Support on the Ten O’Clock News, or Alex Jones wants to wear a pin badge for British Heart Foundation on the One Show, I really don’t have a problem with that. As long as it is a worthy, registered and uncontroversial charity then let them wear a symbol of their support. Surely it would take the BBC no time all to ask the front of camera personnel what they would like and they could agree a list through a simple decision.

AIDS is so important an issue that we are in danger of it becoming ignored and hidden from sight as it was in the early eighties. With my Health Care class last week I was genuinely shocked that all the stereotypes, myths and mistruths that a generation spent disproving are back and as ripe as   ever. There is a real lack of understanding and knowledge about the subject. The idea that it is only drug users and gay people who get it was the commonly held belief. I don’t blame the students, I blame the schools, the government and society for ignoring this time bomb. Sexual health is a big area of ignorance and the stats back it up with more cases of the old favourites returning – gonorrhoea, syphilis, herpes are all on the increase and when you speak to kids they only really seem aware of chlamydia, but not what it actually is.

There are 100,000 people in the UK with AIDS – around 20% are undiagnosed. Would you take the chance of that lottery on the sexual roulette table? Many of our teenagers are. In Scotland there is a new case of it each day. Ratio of those with AIDS per head of population in Scotland is 1:897. Again do want those odds? Then there are 35 million people worldwide with AIDS and if you consider the international nature of business there’s a good chance that some people are having unprotected sex in countries with a higher national average than ours. Throw in all the other STIs and it’s a dangerous chance to take. And to those racists you might be interested to know that there are more white people with AIDS than Black – as the evidence shows the Black community are doing something about it by using condoms more. There has been a steady upward trend in white people with AIDS for the last twenty years. And it’s the 15 – 24 and 24 – 35 year olds that are not practising safe sex – the generations that the campaigning has missed.

So when the BBC go to give Graham Norton into trouble from highlighting a serious issue in society that very few outlets are anymore – perhaps it would have been better to ask him to front a show about the issue that could have been shown in schools and to adults and done what the BBC was set up to do Educate Entertain and Inform. Half a million people in the UK will have a new case of an STI this year. By my calculations that means that one in every one hundred and thirty people have one, and that’s just this year. So rather than banning red ribbons to raise awareness of these issues try using some common sense and do your job as a public service broadcaster.


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