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With COVID Comments, University President Demonizes People With HIV


University of Michigan president Mark Schlissel apologized after his comments angered many.

A COVID-related town hall went awry last week after University of Michigan president Mark Schlissel made stigmatizing and outdated comments about people living with HIV.

Schlissel was discussing how testing for the novel coronavirus can sometimes produce false negatives for people, saying “that happened in the HIV epidemic when people got a negative test, and they presented it to their sex partners and spread the disease nonetheless.”

The comments were immediately condemned by the university's LGBTQ+ group, which demanded a public apology from Schlissel. The university president instead apologized to the group — UM's Queer Advocacy Coalition — writing in an email that his words, "were intended only as a critique of the effectiveness of massive testing of asymptomatic students for the virus that causes COVID-19 in an effort to prevent its spread.

"The analogy I used is not a good or fair one. In using this analogy to make my point, I unintentionally reinforced stereotypes that have been historically and unjustly assigned to the LGBTQIA+ community as well as other communities and persons affected by HIV and AIDS. Again, for this I apologize, especially as it relates to groups that have been historically maligned and stereotyped. It was not my intention to disparage any community or person affected by HIV and AIDS."

Regarding COVID-19, Schlissel says he is opposed to testing asymptomatic students, writing in an email to staff and faculty that it pulls resources away from testing symptomatic students and faculty, as well as contact tracing, reports M Live.

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Neal Broverman