Hazel McHaffie

HIV

Something stirring …

We’re rather used to recognising acting dynasties, identifying young upcoming stars as son/daughter of legendary names, but it’s much less common in the world of literature. So I was rather taken aback by the blurb about the author Christopher Rice which appears on the very first page of The Snow Garden:

Christopher Rice is the son of Anne Rice, bestselling novelist, and Stan Rice, the poet.

Hmmm. I’d rather stand or fall on my own merits when it comes to writing novels, I think.

Anyway, that aside, this book came under my radar because it includes an ethical dilemma – someone deliberately infecting a number of others knowing he is HIV positive – and I do try to keep tabs on the potential competition!!

Two women dying in suspicious circumstances … a group of undergrads with rampant hormones up to no goo … a professor somehow linked to all of them … several people not who they claim to be – that’s the essence of the storyline. And it took me back to the days when HIV/AIDS was a ‘new’ and much feared incurable disease. I carried out research on the topic and met a large number of young homosexual men and drug users who were dying from it, so I could relate to this book.

But my novels are definitely not in competition with this one. Christopher Rice is himself gay and writes from that perspective. And it’s a far more literary style of work which unravels slowly and is steeped in complex relationships, dubious morality, haunted pasts, convoluted cult religious ideas, academic and personal jealousies. Way beyond my pay-grade! And definitely not my cup of tea.

But, for some obscure reason, what came out of this was a poke into the embers of my own writing fire, hitherto suppressed during the pandemic.

As I tramped along on my morning constitutionals this week, enjoying the blossom and the birdsong, the imagination raced away with ideas which throughout the past year have been vague possibilities for a plot and characters. Feels invigorating. Spring buds emerging in the brain as well as the trees …? Time will tell.

 

, , , , , ,

Comments

Father to thirty?!

Wow! The garden has gone from nought to sixty in one fell swoop. Everything is burgeoning and sprouting and bursting into colour, the birdsong has racheted up to symphony standard, the sunshine exceeding the benefits of any pharmacological tonic.

I’ve been alternating writing indoors with reading outside (when I’ve not been weeding and pruning and artistically directing, or course!) and loving the exhilaration of both. So it’s probably not surprising that, surrounded by all this new life and activity, my mind instantly latched onto a report about a different form of creation: babies.

This week it’s been revealed that a diminishing number of sperm donors are fathering eye-watering numbers of children. Now, as long ago as sixteen years (can it really be?!) I wrote a novel about the risks of this phenomenon: Paternity, so it’s a subject I’ve thought about long and hard. But even for me the statistics were like a cold water douche.

Figures from the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) show that, in a period of 24 years (1991-2015):
17 British men have fathered at least 30 babies each,
a further 104 have fathered between 20 and 29,
1,557 between 10 and 19,
and more than 6,000 have created up to 9 babies.

Though these men are offering hope to many many childless women/couples, huge risks are inherent in such practices. Obvious ones are passing on undetected hereditary diseases and risks, and half-brothers and -sisters forming sexual relationships and procreating together. Donated sperm are currently tested for diseases such as HIV, hepatitis B and C, CJD, Huntington’s and cystic fibrosis, but not for genes indicating increased risk of cancers or Altzheimer’s. In the face of the latest statistics, campaigners are calling for more stringent enhanced screening to try to reduce the incidence of faulty genes being passed on, but representatives from the world of assisted conception caution that further screening could reduce the number of donors coming forward or being deemed eligible to donate, already worryingly low.

Research in this area is complicated, not only by the powerful emotions and opinions and ethics around infertility, but also by the fact that sometimes the full consequences of what is permitted in this area are not fully apparent until a generation or more has gone by – which is why I felt compelled to write a sequel to Paternity: Double Trouble. And once you start tinkering with genes it can be impossible to repair any damage done.

So, what d’you think? Just how much control or interference should there be? What are the rights and interests of the babies as well as the parents, donors and recipients? What makes a man a father? Which diseases are worse than non-existence? Who decides?

Now there’s a little package of ethical conundrums to conjure with while you watch birds and animals multiplying prolifically all around you! Welcome to my world!

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Comments