Exeter Uni Politics Society under investigation after committee joke about HIV during social

Politics Society has apologised for the ‘undeniably ignorant’ comments

The University of Exeter Politics Society has apologised for its committee members “making light” of HIV during a social.

Exeter Guild has said it is investigating the incident.

A final year Exeter student who was present at Politics Society’s Tuesday night social this week told The Tab Exeter that “committee members had to tell an ’embarrassing’ and/or ‘funny'” anonymous story, which was then to be matched up to each committee member by the attendees.

One of these “confessions” given by an anonymous committee member involved them saying they had a “1/4 chance of contracting HIV”.

The final year student in attendance told The Tab Exeter the comments were “thinly veiled homophobia” that showed “deep rooted ignorance”.

Politics Society posted an open letter on their Instagram and Facebook pages yesterday, in which they called it a “gross misjudgement to make light of such a sensitive issue”. The society said: “We deeply regret contributing to the stigma surrounding HIV”, calling their comment “unquestionably ignorant”.

Speaking to The Exeter Tab, the student in attendance said: “We have moved away from the labelling and outright discriminatory behaviour towards those who are HIV positive. Now that we have antiretrovirals, one should understand the ramifications of linking an active sex life with ‘promiscuous behaviour’.”

“Why should those who are sexually active be defamed by labels of ‘contracting’ or ‘catching’ HIV? It says more about those who spin that sort of language than those who are subject to it.”

In a story posted to their Instagram story before publishing their open letter, Politics Society acknowledged “the confession in question was insensitive and unintentionally upheld a stigma around STI’s.”

They continued: “We are deeply sorry, it is never our intention to alienate or make members uncomfortable. We will be meeting to discuss how we should proceed and how we are going to ensure the society is a more inclusive, welcoming and safe space for all our members.”

In their open letter, the committee members explained the context behind the confession. “Whilst said member was travelling abroad, they were injected with a potentially infected needle by a hospital. They spent a week in contact with HIV support groups, anxiously awaiting test results which came back negative.

Politics Society said it “will be undertaking inclusivity and diversity training.”

The University of Exeter has declined to comment on the event.

A spokesperson for Exeter Guild said: “We are aware of the situation with Politics Society and we are investigating in line with our disciplinary procedures. We have strong values of radical inclusivity, collaboration and empowerment, and our code of conduct applies to all members and student groups so this matter will be dealt with in accordance with our policies.

“There is wellbeing support available to anyone who has been affected by this by contacting the University’s Wellbeing team (exeter.ac.uk/wellbeing). If you feel that you have witnessed or been subject to any form of harassment, bullying, intimidation or discrimination we encourage you to report it and to seek the help or advice you may need.

Politics Society’s open letter can be read in full here:

Politics Society has been contacted for further comment.