TVM editor and talkshow host Reno Bugeja has said he disagrees with the government focusing on LGBT+ tourism, and is concerned it will increase HIV and AIDS cases in Malta.
His comments were made during a TV interview on his programme, Dissett, with Health Minister Chris Fearne.
While Fearne explained that Malta is embarking on a 10-year plan to improve sexual health (with a focus on HIV and AIDS), Bugeja interjected to state that the government should be “careful that [one arm of government] isn’t causing more problems for another”.
This interjection was referenced recent pushes by the Ministry for Tourism to further increase the visibility of, and improve the quality for, LGBT+ visitors to the island.
Visibly taken aback, the Health Minister said implying HIV was an LGBT-only problem was a “big mistake”.
Acknowledging that MSM (men who have sex with other men) are at a greater risk of contracting HIV, Fearne reiterated that the danger of infection comes from having unprotected sex.
“We get so many tourists of all sorts who visit our islands while sick; the fact that you are discriminating against LGBT+ tourists is something I condemn 100%.”
He continued by saying that the government will tackle the problems that Malta faces when it comes to increases in HIV cases as it tackles all other problems.
Moving the discussion away from HIV and AIDS, Bugeja said he also has an issue with the idea of ‘niche tourism’, particularly LGBT+ tourism. Fearne retorted by explaining that Malta has lots of niche focuses to bring people to the island and used conference tourism as an example.
“[Conference tourism] I agree with,” said Bugeja. But when asked why it was any different to the idea of LGBT+ tourism, he quickly changed the subject and carried on the interview.
You can watch the full programme here.