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Media Bites: Can Columnists Agree on HIV?

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Obviously we here in Media Bites world know that News Can Be Fun™ -- especially when it involves naked royalty or Margarte Wente. But you know what's not fun? AIDS. And you know what's even less fun than AIDS? People who have it, then have sex with you without telling. And you know what's the least fun of all? A bunch of stern newspaper editorials about the Supreme Court's recent decision that not disclosing you suffer from AIDS before having sex can be legally permissible under certain circumstances.

"I approve of that decision" says noted woman-who-rarely-approves-of-anything Barbara Kay at the National Post. Before everyone puts on their outrage hats, Babs wants us to remember that sex with HIV-positive people is hardly "deadly" anymore -- what with today's modern miracle drugs and all. She prefers the term "consequential," as in, "sorry Mr. McCullough, you're too consequential to participate in the blood drive."

Disease-y sex may be rude and unpleasant, she concedes, but it's still "hardly a weapon in the sense of a knife or a gun." (In Canada, maybe, but African militias might not agree.)

Right on Bar, agrees another somewhat unsettling piece from the Ottawa Citizen editorial board. Kudos to the Supremes for finally taking a stand against this regressive idea that we need a sweeping "blanket law" doling out "extreme and inappropriate" punishments to every infected player who manages to quietly bed some uptight buzkill who might otherwise go all Howie Mandel on them. As long as everyone's well-clad in latex there should be nothing to fear.

Say what? You guys can't be serious, responds Heather Mallick at the Toronto Star, there's still plenty to fear!

It's all well and good to blindly take your chances with disease when you're on safari, she says, since "you can't ascribe vile intent or laziness to mosquitoes," but we're talking about supposedly consensual sex between two supposedly empathic human beings. And in all the cases of undisclosed infection the court examined, the reality was that the "sexual partners wouldn't have said yes to sex had they known about the HIV." So it's hard to see this as anything but a victory for those eager to shed the "moral burden of honesty."

Sigh. Avoiding diseased sex with random hookups was "previously simple," but now it's gonna be this big hassle of trying to suss out disclosures from people no longer legally obligated to give them. Thanks a lot, judges!

The ruling's not even that great from a HIV-positive perspective, observes Peter McKnight in the Vancouver Sun. Sure, the court may have said that under some circumstances not telling is okay, but those "some circumstances" are so vague as to be near useless.

If anything, the judges' unwillingness to wholeheartedly endorse condoms or low "viral loads" as a universal defence for the not-tellers actually "means HIV-positive people are at greater risk of facing legal sanction, even if they take some precautions to prevent transmission."

So don't come crying to me Supreme Court, says Pete, if all this results in fewer Canadians getting tested for HIV because you've made ignorance the easier choice.

In deciding whatever it is they decided last week, the Supremes rendered a solid 9-0 verdict. This is something they do quite a lot these days on the premise that unanimous rulings -- no matter how watered-down, group think-y and incoherent they wind up being -- are very good at uniting the country in equally unanimous acceptance.

Notice how well it works.

***

Thankfully, it wasn't all doom and disease in the punditsphere this weekend. You may recall that President Obama had a pretty bad showing at his inaugural debate with Mitt Romney on Wednesday. Well, that's certainly something our press buddies have lots of feisty non-AIDS related opinions on!

It was a "sheer bloody joy" to see ol' Hopey-Changey on the ropes cackles Michael Coren at Sun TV. Man, did he ever lose! Mike would even go so far as to call it "the worst defeat of an incumbent in the history of presidential debates" -- and you know sweeping conclusions like that don't come easily to Sun News journalists.

No bones about it, Mitt totally hit it "out of the park" agrees L. Ian MacDonald in the Citizen. Yup, "the best I've seen from Romney, ever," swoons Andrew Coyne at the Post. It was almost "as if someone had attached electrodes to his limbs," quips the Globe's Elizabeth Renzetti.  You wouldn't expect a politician as polished and savvy as Barack Obama to "leave his game at the door," sighs John Parisella at Macleans' -- but that's exactly what he did!

"Yes we can, Obama famously said in 2008. But, no, he didn't, not against Romney," adds Warren Kinsella, fingers no doubt snapping sassily.

Veteran camapaign hack that he is, Kinsella knows that the key to Romney's debate victory was his strong focus on stuff that actually matters to average voters, rather than the boring "litany of facts" spouted by ol' snore-fest Barry. Mitt was great at speaking the language of "everyday values," like empathy and optimism, he says, and gave a genuine sense -- despite his aristocratic background -- of having a real plan to "fix the yawning chasm between the haves and the have-nots."

In fact, says Warren, it very much reminds me of the appeal of Justin Trud--

Ah, sorry folks. I really did try this time.