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Farage's HIV comment is most discussed leaders debate moment

2015-04-03
Comments made by the UKIP leader Nigel Farage became the most talked about on social media last night, during ITV's seven way leaders' debate. farage_3255529b During a discussion of the strains on the NHS and 'health tourism', Farage said, "There are 7,000 diagnoses in this country every year, people who are HIV positive. Not a good place for any of them to be, I know. 60% of them are not British nationals. You can come into Britain, from anywhere in the world, and get diagnosed with HIV, and get the retroviral drugs that cost up to £25,000 a year per patient." He went on to say, "I know there are some horrible things happening in many parts of the world but what we need to do is put the National Health Service there for British people and families, who in many cases have paid into this system for decades." Farage prefaced his comments by saying he was sure the others would be 'mortified' that he 'dared to talk about it', and indeed the other leaders reacted strongly. The Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood replied to Mr Farage saying, "This kind of scaremongering rhetoric is dangerous, it divides communities and it creates stigma to people who are ill, and I think you ought to be ashamed of yourself." Her retort earned the night's first round of applause from the audience, almost 55 minutes into the 2 hour long debate. video-undefined-273BEAAF00000578-795_636x358 The leader of the SNP, Nicola Sturgeon - widely agreed to have won the debate overall - then said, "When somebody is diagnosed with a dreadful illness, my instinct is to view them as a human being, not consider what country they come from." Over 1.4 million tweets were sent during the debate, with Twitter revealing that Farage's HIV comments had provoked the most tweets throughout the night. Both Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg later tweeted their outrage at Farage's comments, with Miliband calling them "disgusting" and Clegg calling it "Politics of the lowest form". Screen Shot 2015-04-03 at 09.36.08 Screen Shot 2015-04-03 at 09.35.52 It's not the first time Nigel Farage has made such remarks, having commented in October 2014 that HIV migrants shouldn't be allowed to come to Britain, though he later clarified this applied to all life threatening illnesses. In response, both the National AIDS Trust and the Terence Higgins Trust have this morning tweeted their own statistical facts about HIV migrants. Elsewhere in the debate chaired by Julie Etchingham, the seven major party leaders clashed on the economy, immigration, the NHS and the future of young people. The leaders of the opposition - Miliband, Farage, Sturgeon, Wood and Bennett - will debate each other again on 16 April on the BBC. You can read Attitude's interview with six of the main party leaders on LGBT issues, in the May issue of the magazine, out now.