LGBT community fights against push to have Fred Hollows on $5 bill
The push to have Fred Hollows immortalised on the Australian five dollar note has caused concern in the LGBT community.
Hollows, an eye surgeon who saved the eyesight of countless people globally, also had controversial views on people who had AIDS at the height of the epidemic in Australia.
Hollows suggested that people diagnosed with AIDS should be quarantined and the gay community had ‘hijacked’ the debate on HIV/AIDS.
According to The Australian's Martin Thomas, Hollows stated that some homosexuals were "recklessly spreading the virus"; therefore, the safe sex campaign was an inadequate way of dealing with the issue.
In an article published in The Canberra Times in 1992, after backlash from the gay community over his comments, Hollows continued to stand by his views. The article states:
‘The eye specialist said on Monday the gay community had "hijacked" Australia's AIDS policy and had promoted AIDS as affecting everyone, when it was basically a homosexual problem in Australia.
‘He said many AIDS-infected homosexuals were spreading the deadly virus recklessly and might have to be quarantined to prevent infection getting into vulnerable rural Aboriginal communities and wiping them out.’
The paper quoted Hollows as saying:
“I know of the devastation of AIDS in Africa and I don't want that to happen to Aboriginal people in Australia. Options previously never discussed must now be discussed.”
AIDS researchers at the time said Hollow’s statements were “insulting, naïve, and ill-informed.”
The campaign featuring prominent Australians pushing to have Hollows placed on the five dollar bill carries the hashtag #FredOnTheFiver and is garnering heavy support with many agreeing Hollows deserves to be recognised in this way.
While members of the LGBT community are praising Hollows and The Fred Hollows Foundation for their work, many are still hurt by Hollow’s comments and oppose his placement on the five dollar bill.
In response to the Foundation’s campaign many have taking to social media to express their views:
Garrett Prestage wrote:
‘His foundation does good things. But, his attacks on the gay community were hateful and bigoted. To honor him in that way, in the full knowledge that he so actively and hurtfully abused one particular section of the Australian population, especially at a time when it was so vulnerable, would be an ongoing insult, and I suspect the ensuing controversy would do little good to the work of the foundation.’
Ian McMillan also wrote:
‘I can't understand the beatification of this vile old homophobe. Ita Buttrose you should be ashamed of yourself. This man suggested, at a time of great and traumatic grief, that people with HIV shoud be quarantined on an island somewhere. I have very unhappy memories of this time, when friends were dying and a hostile and ignorant press was heartlessly vilifying gay men. Some of the most hurtful statements were those of Fred Hollows. Using his high profile position to openly vilify a traumatised community remains one of the low points of the AIDS epidemic in Australia. I have not forgiven him.’
The Fred Hollows Foundation has responsed via Facebook, they wrote:
‘Professor Hollows was a humanitarian and applied his egalitarian perspective to his work on eye-health right around the world. He did not discriminate between anyone with vision impairment, no matter their background.
Fred always spoke his mind, a quality that made him such a powerful advocate for many social justice causes. However, he was far from perfect as an individual and some of his positions were wrong, something The Fred Hollows Foundation acknowledges. This includes his views on HIV/AIDS.
During the HIV/AIDS crisis in Australia in the early 1990s, Professor Hollows spoke out about fighting the disease and its spread. At this time Fred lost two of his nephews to this terrible disease. His views caused controversy at the time, but he believed he was helping to save lives. Our knowledge of HIV/AIDS is now better and public and medical opinion has moved on.
The Fred Hollows Foundation works to restore sight to millions of people around the world regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, gender or sexuality. We are a proudly secular organisation that works to keep the work of the late Professor Fred Hollows alive around the world.
As Fred himself said: “Every eye is an eye.”’
However, some do not feel the response is adequate. Jo Harrison wrote:
‘The Foundation needs to openly acknowledge what Fred said about people living with HIV and his suggestion about quarantining homosexuals. Telling us he was a 'man who spoke his mind' is completely inadequate.
The Foundation needs to make a strong statement openly acknowledging what was said, stating that it was wrong and contained incorrect facts about HIV, retracting the statement, apologising to the LGBTI and HIV communities and to all those involved in the fight against this plague that meant that the gay community's approach to safe sex education saved thousands of lives, and seek to offer redress for this.
Otherwise there will continue to be posts across social media and LGBTI organisations and sites that ask why we would support a campaign that puts the face of a man we recall as homophobic, bigoted, and dangerously wreckless in his approach to us. This cannot be swept under the carpet. If you want this campaign to succeed you need to engage with the LGBTI and HIV community and organisations.’
WATCH Joel Edgerton in the push to put Hollows on the fiver.