Prime minister Boris Johnson has been condemned for confusing HIV with “AIDS or whatever” during a live broadcast of the UK government’s COVID briefing.
The prime minister was asked about whether he imagined the UK would still be in a pandemic, considering his personal experience being hospitalised with COVID last year. Johnson was hospitalised in April 2020 after reportedly suffering 10 days of symptoms, and he remained in hospital until 12 April.
In a press briefing on Monday (5 April), he said he was “filled with amazement” that science has “produced so many vaccines”. He added that he could have never believed so many COVID vaccines would be available in “such a short order”.
“But I never thought we would get so many workable vaccines in such a short order when you consider we haven’t got one – we haven’t got vaccines against SARs or AIDS or whatever,” Johnson said. “So I think that’s the most stunning thing about the last year.”
However, the prime minister has gotten slammed online for his statement confusing HIV for AIDS. The National AIDS Trust’s reporting guidelines condemns the mixing up of AIDS and HIV in the media, as the two diseases are not the same thing and writing or speaking about one “when you mean the other” can “add to unhelpful confusion between the two”.
Many people were quick to point out Boris Johnson’s gaffe during the broadcast. Writer and producer Tom Knight wrote the prime minister “should know better” than to confuse HIV and AIDS. He added that his statement during the Downing Street briefing was “very ignorant”.
“The virus is called HIV, prime minister,” Knight wrote. “You REALLY should know better.”
One person wrote: “You can’t get a vaccine against AIDS, Boris Johnson, any more than you can vaccinate against diabetes or sciatica.”
Another helpfully pointed the prime minister to a guide on how to talk about HIV so he doesn’t get it confused again in the future.
One commenter pointed out that Johnson’s comment of “AIDS or whatever” seemed especially flippant. He asked: “Can we look forward to more factual, insight and thoughtful words on World AIDS Day this year?”
Boris Johnson has been asked for comment by PinkNews.