The executive producer of reality TV show Big Brother has defended the show against an accusation that HIV-positive people were discriminated against in the contestant selection process.

In a letter sent to Sydney Star Observer this week, Big Brother executive producer Peter Abbott stated that a contestant applicant’s HIV status was not a matter which disqualified anyone from consideration for participation in the series.

The accusation was aired last week in a letter to the Star editor from a contestant applicant, Greg Hoffman, who wrote: I was horrified when I heard one of the Big Brother judges decree that no one with an infectious disease would be considered.

Abbott said he made no such comment.

What I in fact said was that the 40 finalists underwent extensive medical checks for the purpose of determining their general health, including, amongst other things, whether they had an infectious disease, Abbott said. As a matter of fact, the kinds of diseases which I personally had in mind were diseases such as measles, chicken pox, rubella and indeed TB, all of which can be highly contagious, particularly in confined environments, if not handled properly.

The show’s producers had a legal duty, Abbott said, to ensure that a person with an infectious disease is not unknowingly introduced into a confined environment without all appropriate consideration having been given to the management of the infection and the necessary accommodation made.

I am well aware that from the point of view of infection, an HIV-positive person need be treated no differently to an [HIV-negative] person provided certain precautions are taken when the possibility of sharing of bodily fluids is involved, he said.

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