The retired rugby player Gareth Thomas has won praise for his courage from all sorts of lofty quarters, including our future king and queen.
Prince William tweeted, most lamentably leaving out a comma in the second sentence: “Courageous as ever – legend on the pitch and legend off it. You have our support Gareth.”
Not to be outdone, our aspiring, probably future, PM Comrade Corbyn described Mr Thomas as a “role model challenging stigma and prejudice”.
What did the former jock do to merit such accolades? Oh well, he picked up HIV from another homosexual and has now owned up to it.
Ever ready as I am to praise people, I’m trying to get my head around the reason for Mr Thomas’s new status as folk hero. Now, as some wags would have it, HIV is usually transmitted by hot breath on the back of one’s neck.
That’s to say that by far the most widespread method of transmitting this virus is anal intercourse between men. It’s not the only method, and I do know that straights can get the virus too. But what I’ve outlined is what usually happens in real life.
Now, since the orifice involved isn’t designed for that purpose, it must be rather tight, which can probably make penetration painful for both parties. Is that what Mr Thomas’s fans mean by his legendary, role-modelling courage? His ability to take the pain?
Probably not. Those who offer tributes to Mr Thomas do so because he has admitted he has the condition. Since he already came out of the closet 10 years ago, this new admission sounds rather tame, but perhaps one does have to be brave to declare urbi et orbi that one carries a venereal disease.
Now, advances in medical science have removed much of the doom and gloom from HIV and even AIDS. Antiretroviral drugs control the conditions well, and they no longer spell the death sentence.
Hence I still struggle to understand the nature of Mr Thomas’s claim to valour, especially since he seems to be in rude health. Actually, I’m being coy here. I understand it perfectly well.
Ladies and gentlemen, please give a warm welcome to my recurrent theme: the evil of ideologies. This particular ideology is as emetic as all others: it mandates that HIV and AIDS carriers be treated as victims of some unidentified evildoers, who contextually have to be the dreaded Conservative Establishment.
Every HIV carrier is portrayed as a sort of freedom fighter, one who strikes a powerful blow against prejudice. How heroism can be displayed through any type of sexual intercourse is a mystery, unless we’re talking about trying it with a tigress (tiger?) at a zoo. Or, rather, if you find it mysterious, you yourself are a member of the Conservative Establishment.
Hence praising Mr Thomas is a way of establishing one’s own credentials as belonging to the warrior class, manning the frontline in the battle against said Establishment. That members of our royal family should seek such recognition is rather incongruous, but really nothing new.
Didn’t the Prince d’Orléans become Philippe Egalité to express his solidarity with the Revolution? That didn’t save him from the guillotine, but these days I doubt the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are risking the same fate.
Mr Thomas, who used to be unhappily married to a woman and now is happily married to a man, plays along with admirable PR skill. He has admitted publicly to his little problem, he says, for the sake of all those timorous souls who don’t seek early treatment out of embarrassment.
That is indeed laudable, if true. But then it turns out that, although Mr Thomas was diagnosed years ago (he doesn’t specify how many), he has only now gone public because he was being blackmailed. Now what about all those chaps too ashamed to seek treatment during the time Mr Thomas kept silent? Didn’t they deserve help?
The hysteria about HIV/AIDS has abated somewhat since those antiretrovirals started working well. One sees fewer people with those ridiculous ribbons on their chests; the demands that most research funds be channelled into AIDS and therefore away from, say, cancer have become less shrill.
But the ideology isn’t dead; it’s still there, striking less frequently, but striking nonetheless. So, if you don’t want to be ostracised, don’t you ever dare say that the condition is self-inflicted.
Diseases caused by smoking, drinking or excessive weight are self-inflicted. HIV/AIDS is a noble wound suffered in battle. The one against tradition, common sense, decency and, well, the Conservative Establishment.
I say give Mr Thomas the Victoria Cross. His courage on the battlefield merits nothing less.