Sunday, May 18, 2003


Arthur O. Sulzberger, Jr.
The New York Times
New York, New York

Dear Mr. Sulzberger:

I would like to bring to your attention another AIDS-related story that appeared in the New York Times and was written by former reporter Jayson Blair, who may have plagiarized and summarized, without attribution, an article from the Wall Street Journal, written by staff reporters Amanda Bennett and Anita Sharpe that appeared in that paper on May 1, 1996, headlined AIDS Fight is Skewed by Federal Campaign Exaggerating Risks, for his story. [1]

Much of what Blair wrote in the following passage from his August 5, 2001, article headlined Healthy Skepticism and the Marketing of AIDS, is really nothing more than a summarization of what ran in the Wall Street Journal five years earlier. [2]

Here is the pertinent excerpt from Blair's story:

"In 1987, for example, the federal government decided to blitz the American people with a frightening message: anyone could get AIDS.

'''If I can get AIDS, anyone can,' said the son of a Baptist minister in one of the government's public service announcements.

"The award-winning campaign, called America Responds to AIDS, helped catapult the disease into the public consciousness and convince public and private funders to underwrite the fight against it. But while the message of the campaign was technically correct, it was also somewhat misleading.

"Yes, everyone faces some measure of risk. But 14 years ago, AIDS in the United States was overwhelmingly a disease of gay men and intravenous drug users, and their children. Yet references to drug use and sexual orientation in the America Responds to AIDS ads were removed under pressure from conservatives in Congress. The minister's son, for example, was gay, but that information was kept out of the script.

"To be sure, prevention experts say that targeting the widest possible audience is not necessarily a bad thing when it comes to a disease like AIDS, particularly when one of the goals is to build not only awareness, but broad support for research and prevention measures.

"But the decision to make descriptions of the new illness as unobjectionable as possible entailed real costs. For years, prevention advocates contend, the ad campaign -- because of what had been left out -- made it impossible for them to get federal health officials to set aside money specifically to educate drug users and gays. Much of the government's $600 million AIDS-prevention budget was used instead to combat the disease among college students, heterosexual women and others who faced a relatively low risk of contracting the disease."

If you read what appeared in the Wall Street Journal about the government's AIDS campaign back then, you'll likely agree that Blair did a good job of condensing what that paper reported.

Also, as you can see in the excerpts below from both articles, Blair essentially plagiarized two sentences from the Wall Street Journal story.

"But while the message of the campaign was technically correct, it was also somewhat misleading."
NY Times
August 5, 2001

"While the message was technically true, it was also highly misleading."
Wall Street Journal
May 1, 1996

"Much of the government's $600 million AIDS-prevention budget was used instead to combat the disease among college students, heterosexual women and others who faced a relatively low risk of contracting the disease."
New York Times
August 5, 2001

"Much of the Centers for Disease Control's $584 million AIDS-prevention budget goes instead to programs to combat the disease among heterosexual women, college students and others who face a relatively low risk of becoming infected."
Wall Street Journal
May 1, 1996

By the way, you should be aware that the Wall Street Journal received a Pulitzer Prize in 1997 for its AIDS coverage the previous year, including the story from which Blair, in my opinion, plagiarized and summarized. [3]

The Times should read the Wall Street Journal article from 1996 and decide if Blair in 2001 did indeed lift and rework some of what was printed there. If he did, then of course, the Times should make the necessary corrections.

Michael Petrelis
San Francisco, CA
Ph: 415-621-6267



Friday, May 16, 2003


[This letter has been faxed and snail mailed to HHS]
- - -

May 16, 2003

Janet Rehnquist
Inspector General
Department of Health and Human Services
Room 5541 Cohen Building
330 Independence Avenue, S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20201

Dear Ms. Rehnquist:

I am writing to request that an audit and evaluation be performed on the San Francisco Department of Public Health's management and allocation of all grants from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for HIV prevention efforts, HIV antibody testing and HIV surveillance over the past five fiscal years.

The CDC provided the SF DPH with $16 million in FY 1999, $16.5 million in FY 2000, $17 million in FY 2001, $18 million in FY 2002, and $18.5 million in FY 2003 for a total of $86 million over this five-year period.

And yet, despite that enormous sum of federal funding, San Francisco is experiencing alarming rates of new HIV infections that the SF DPH compares to levels in sub-Saharan Africa and the department has not produced and released any data for HIV antibody tests performed with CDC grants since 2000.

These are the questions I would like your office to ask of the SF DPH:

1. Have federal funds been properly spent and accounted for?

2. Can the department's HIV statistics be independently verified?

3. Why has the department not released any data for 2001 and 2002 about the HIV antibody tests administered through the Counseling, Testing, Referral and Partner Counseling and Referral Services program, which is funded by the CDC?

4. Have all community-based HIV prevention organizations receiving CDC grants for workshops and forums met their stated goals of reducing new HIV infections?

5. Did those same organizations use their federal dollars appropriately, according to all federal laws and statutes?

6. Was the department effectively monitoring the HIV prevention organization and their handling of government grants?

Legitimate concerns about the SF DPH's use of CDC grants for HIV prevention services and epidemiology have been raised by activists and reporters during this five-year period, but adequate responses have not been provided by the department.

Employees of the SF DPH's HIV prevention branch are frequently making alarming statements regarding their programs and HIV statistics, that aren't easily corroborated.

Most recently, in the May 15, 2003, edition of the gay newspaper the Bay Area Reporter, Steven Tierney, the director for HIV prevention services of the SF DPH was quoted making the following unsubstantiated claim related to recent shifts by CDC regarding routing HIV testing and prevention efforts.

"Never mind if it wasn't for [current] HIV prevention there would be 160,000 new infections each year [across the nation]," said Tierney.

Where this figure comes from is anyone's guess, but it is indicative of how the department makes claims about HIV matters that can't always be confirmed.

I ask that you move swiftly to investigate the SF DPH's use of HIV related funds from the CDC over the past five years. Decisive action on your part is needed to assure the department is fulfilling its duties and providing appropriate oversight for CDC grants to the city.


Michael Petrelis
2215-R Market Street, #413
San Francisco, CA 94114
Ph: 415-621-6267

Secretary Tommy Thompson, HHS
Dr. Julie Gerberding, CDC
Dr. Ronald O. Valdiserri, CDC
Dr. Bill Frist, US Senate
Mark Souder, US House of Representatives
Dr. Dave Weldon, US House of Representatives

Thursday, May 15, 2003


I met Josh one summer when I took an intensive five-week course in Italian at City College of San Francisco. For the first week, he made no impression on me, due in part to the large size of the class. When the instructor had us do language exercises with each other, I began to pay some attention to Josh and his voice, one that had a boyish timbre.

Over the summer, he and I would meet at cafes, or at my apartment, and practice Italian and do lessons for the class. When he first came to the apartment I live in with my genuine boyfriend, Mike, who is gay, Josh told he had lived in the apartment above ours the previous year when he occupied the couch of our upstairs neighbors.

“So you were once living in the same building as me, and making too much noise, while here,” I said to him. “We can every sound our neighbors make, including their houseguests.”

We’d been near each other in the city and didn’t even know it or each other, until later. Months before we signed up for the Italian course, Josh bought a VCR camera. One sunny weekend afternoon he walked about the city, videotaping people going about their business that day. His footage from the corner of Church and Market Streets shows a bicyclist, wearing an older, bulky helmet on his head and Levi’s shorts. He is loudly confronting two people in t-shirts for the California AIDS Ride, which had its kickoff that morning.

“The AIDS Ride is a scam. It does not help AIDS patients. The organizers reap all the profits from the scam, not people with HIV,” he says them, for less than a minute, as they cross the street. “I hope the AIDS Ride goes out of business. The sooner the better.”

The bicyclist was me. When Josh gave me a copy of the tape so I could see it, we laughed about how the AIDS Ride did indeed go out of business last year.

Some sort of force was bringing us close to one another, looking back on such things now.

One of oddest things about our relationship, is that he is not at all like the kind of man I feel attracted to. Josh was in his mid twenties when we met, under 200 pounds, light brown hair, clean shaven; your general sort of young artistic man living in the city. My taste in men runs toward the mature male, preferably bearish, with some meat on his bones. That wasn’t Josh, but I as I got to know him, his naturally adorable masculinity and innate cheerfulness grew on me.

In the next few years, I would see him sporadically on the campus, when he wasn’t off traveling abroad and experiencing life.

We lost touch for awhile, until he was back in touch with our upstairs neighbors and then phoned me. Soon thereafter, we went on a date. Our mutual acquaintances were part of a theatrical company that put on a professionally produced a play at the Project Artuad theater, and we went to see it.

On other occasions, we had beers or coffee together around the Mission and Castro neighborhoods. He then disappeared again, this time to Athens, Georgia. I would get postcards from him, on an irregular basis, telling me how much he liked me and out times together.

I didn’t see Josh again until I literally bumped into him at the line for coffee at Café Flore in the summer of 2002. He seemed to have grown a few inches and had more facial hair, still with his sweet smile and appealing eyes.

As we caught up with each other, I felt for the first time that I loved him, as a friend, and how he made me happy for the times I spent with him. I derived such pleasure from his mind and personality. We can just easily chat for hours about political developments, the latest movies, especially off beat or foreign ones, our lives, and a mutual concern and respect flows between us.

Still, I didn’t want to have sex with him and his orientation precluded any possibility of sexual intimacy, a fact that helped me feel so comfortable with Josh. But I felt we had a true friendship between men, one that transcended sexuality, difference in ages and that fact we only see one another a couple of time every year, if I am lucky and he is in San Francisco.

Details of sexual orientation aside, I defined us as boyfriends, in my mind. When I informed Josh of this on the telephone, he laugh so loud I had to move the phone a few inches away from my ear.

“That’s fine with me,” he said. “I’m telling my friends and co-workers that I am your straight boyfriend. Let’s have another date.”

We attended plays and movies together again, shared some brews at the Zeitgeist biker bar, found out what was new in our separate lives. He had no idea about all the legal troubles I had hanging over my head from phone calls I made in 2001 that landed me in the San Francisco county jail for 72 days. I learned that he bought a house in Athens.

Two months ago we went to hear Wall Street Journal reporter Marilyn Chase read from her new book about the bubonic plague at a bookstore on Van Ness Avenue. My real boyfriend had zero interest in the Chase talk, so he was only too happy to have me go with Josh.

Mike has met Josh and thinks it’s great I have a relationship going with him.

“If he’s willing to listen to you extol the glories of your favorite director, Bela Tarr, and his seven-and-half hour masterpiece ‘Satantango,’ I’m happy for you,” said Mike.

What does any of this have to with HIV prevention? Plenty, in my opinion.

I see the larger picture being one of an HIV prevention mafia operating programs with such silliness as federally funded flirting classes and other socializing events, to help gay men find lovers, boyfriends, and plain old friends, all in an effort to prevent HIV and STDs.

On a fundamental level I find it offensive, and somewhat incredible, that in San Francisco, of all U.S. cities, the poor pathetic homosexual is not able to acquire friends and partners without having to take an erotic writing course, join the HIV bowling league or attend a forum on how to fist safely. It’s my understanding from friends who have attended these events, that very few men are showing up for them.

The programs are getting so desperate for attendees that the Gay Life program of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, which is run by a heterosexual woman, is offering a four-part series on how to find sex on the web. What normal gay man here needs the help of such workshops to locate sexual outlets and partners on the web? None that I know of, and it is my fervent hope that gay men reject the Gay Life efforts, as I have done. [1]

Girlfriend, if you need help flirting with men, or cruising the web, and you live here, maybe you’re not really gay. Or perhaps you are so pathetic and don’t have a life, and need to get one.

If I can find not only my gay boyfriend, whom I still love after almost eight years together, and he continues to reciprocate with bonds of affection and concern for me, but also a straight male boyfriend like Josh, then other gay men in this town should have little problems finding boyfriends.

Plus, you have to remember I’m no Colt model, have a wild, radical political reputation and adore the films of Bela Tarr, almost to the point of obsession, so I’m not exactly what many gay men would consider prime boyfriend material. But that hasn’t prevented me from making true boyfriends like Mike and Josh. And without the help of a single government funded HIV prevention workshop.


Monday, May 12, 2003


Arthur Sulzberger, Jr.
The New York Times
New York, NY

Dear Mr. Sulzberger:

I wish to bring a June 23, 2001, NY Times story about AIDS written by Jayson Blair to your attention, because there may be an inaccurate figure in the article related to damages sought in the lawsuit.

Blair wrote about a woman who had sued Merck and Company and an advertising agency over the use of her image in an ad for AIDS drugs, without her authorization.

"Her lawyer has said that she would seek $72 million in damages from the two companies," Blair wrote.

However, the AIDS-focused magazine POZ, in its December 2001 issue, said the following about the case.

"Sweet Jane is seeking a mere $12 million in compensatory damages and $6 million in punitive damages."

There's quite a difference between the $72 million cited by Blair and the $18 million mentioned in the POZ news brief.

The Times may want to investigate what the exact amount was that the woman was suing for in damages, and other claims in Blair's June 23, 2001, article.

Michael Petrelis
San Francisco, CA
Ph: 415-621-6267

- - -
June 23, 2001
NY Times

Woman Wins Suit on Misleading AIDS Ad

A woman with AIDS whose photograph was used in a brochure for a drug to fight the disease without her permission has won a summary judgment in a defamation and civil rights lawsuit against Merck & Company, one of the world's largest pharmaceutical manufacturers.

Justice Mary M. Werner of State Supreme Court in Manhattan ruled that the woman, who was not identified, had been defamed when Merck and its Manhattan advertising agency, Harrison & Star, used her photograph in the brochure with a fictitious biography.

The brochure described the woman as a 19-year-old with two children and suggested that she had contracted AIDS and herpes through being sexually promiscuous. The woman was actually a suburban housewife and mother in her mid-30's. She did not have herpes and contracted H.I.V. from her husband. She had signed a waiver when her photograph was taken, but had expected that her image would be used only for educational purposes, her lawyer said. She was paid to have her photograph taken, although the exact amount was not revealed.

Justice Werner said the case can now move to a hearing in which a jury would decide how much the woman would receive in punitive and compensatory damages. Her lawyer has said that she would seek $72 million in damages from the two companies. The ruling stated that Justice Werner had found that the company acted with "actual malice" because the "record establishes that the brochure was published with the knowledge of the text's falsity."

Justice Werner rejected the defendants' argument that the brochure was substantially true, and that the woman's signing the waiver removed their liability.

The use of fictitious or misleading biographies is a common, even if controversial, practice in medical marketing, particularly when it comes to AIDS. In a recent instance, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was criticized for a marketing campaign intended to increase awareness about the ease of H.I.V. transmission that did not note that the people portrayed were in high-risk groups, such as intravenous drug users or gays.

Critics said that incident led Congress to direct federal AIDS money away from programs for gays and intravenous drug users.

In the more recent case involving the woman in her 30's, critics said they were concerned that the fictitious biography was created to help the average AIDS patient identify with the woman.

"The case is obviously important to our client because it vindicates her and gives her a measure of satisfaction for all the damage and the pain that was caused to her," said the woman's lawyer, Meredith Braxton. "The broader message that is important about this case is that big companies cannot play with the rights of individuals with impunity."

Gregory E. Reaves, a spokesman for Merck, which is based in Whitehouse Station, N.J., said that the company "certainly would not comment on pending litigation." The lawyer representing Merck and Harrison & Star, Sara Lynn Edelman, could not be reached for comment.

The ruling was first reported yesterday in The New York Law Journal. The decision was handed down on June 13.

Dan Willson, a spokesman for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center in Manhattan said the real issue was being honest about AIDS.

"There is no reason to be melodramatic about this because the fact of the matter is that the reality of these stories is compelling enough," he said.

Court filings, many of which have been sealed because they include identifiable information about the woman, tell the plaintiff's story.

The records say that the woman was recruited in 1996 by the Morgan Agency, a Costa Mesa, Calif., modeling firm that said her story would be used solely for educational purposes. The woman was photographed by Skip Hine Photography, which is based in Riverdale, the Bronx.

The woman signed an agreement stating that the photographs would be used only for educational purposes.

The photographs first appeared in a Merck educational brochure called "Getting the Facts." But in 1997, they also appeared in a marketing brochure for Crixivan, a drug that Merck developed to fight AIDS .

Merck made $562 million in gross revenue in 1997 because of the drug. The woman plans to request $56 million in punitive damages, or about 10 percent of the gross revenues, and about $16 million in compensatory damages.

The lawsuit was filed in 1998 after the woman went into a health clinic and a friend showed her the photograph and fictitious profile in the brochure. At the beginning of the case, Merck said it would remove her image from its advertising.

But yesterday, the advertisement was still available on a Merck Web page for health care providers.

When she was told about the Web page, Ms. Braxton, the woman's lawyer, said she was surprised that Merck was still using it and said she would go into court on Monday to ask for an order that it be removed from the Web site.




A Merck-y Story

A Jane Doe with HIV won a defamation and civil rights suit against Merck and its ad agency in June. The thirtysomething soccer mom -- who says she got HIV from her hubby -- was identified in a 1997 "Sharing Stories" brochure she gave face to as a 19-year-old with two kids who got HIV and herpes from promiscuous sex. Sweet Jane is seeking a mere $12 million in compensatory damages and $6 million in punitive damages.

Friday, May 09, 2003


The Advocate
Los Angeles, CA

Dear Editor:

In his April 23 opinion piece for the web site, Who's SAR-y now?, by Charles Karel Bouley ll, a gay talk show host for KGO radio in San Francisco, he states the following.

"In 1982 they were arguing in San Francisco whether or not to close the bathhouses. . . They did finally close the bathhouses in 1985," which is true. But Bouley then goes on to erroneously make the claims "they reopened shortly thereafter. And now they are back and as popular ever." [1]

Nothing could be further from the truth. The gay bathhouses did not reopen after the city banned them, and they are not operating again in San Francisco, nor are they as popular as ever in this town because they are prohibited.

I have no idea where your columnist got his misinformation from, but I am requesting that you immediately post a correction on the web site, and in the future, before running such columns about bathhouses here, that you assign a fact checker to investigate all claims made by the writer.

Lies about the bathhouses miraculously reopening in the only American city that shut them down in a misguided effort to control HIV and STD infections should not be allowed to stand as truth on your site.

Just this week, the San Francisco Chronicle editorialized about the closure of the bathhouses. "City officials know too well what can happen when there's a slow response to a public health crisis, as witnesses to the gay public bath debacle 20 years ago can attest. That sad chapter in history shows what can happen when political sensitivities override sound public health policy," said the paper. [2]

If the bathhouses for gay men were indeed open again and flourishing, you could count on the Chronicle to mention it in editorials.

I look forward to a correction about Bouley's errors posted on the Advocate's web site.

Michael Petrelis
San Francisco, CA
Ph: 415-621-6267




Secretary Tommy Thompson
Department of Health and Human Services
200 Independence Ave. S.W., Room 615-F
Washington, D.C. 20201

Dear Secretary Thompson:

The latest issue of the Bay Area Reporter, a weekly gay newspaper in San Francisco, is running a full-page ad from the National Institutes of Health to call attention to the need for an HIV vaccine. [1]

I had to wade through dozens of pages of sexy HIV prevention ads with nearly nude models, provocative personal ads from men who want to engage in drugged out sexual liaisons, glamorous ads for rent boys and escorts, some of whom promise condomless sex and no aversion to speed use before the NIH advertisement caught my eye.

This letter serves as my formal Freedom of Information Act request for the following information:

1. How much federal money was spent to design the NIH ads?

2. What was the cost for placing the ad in the Bay Area Reporter?

3. Which ad agency was employed by the NIH to create the ad?

4. What is the breakdown for all costs associated with producing and inserting the ad in all gay newspapers across the country?

5. Which community review panel of NIH approved the ad?

6. Who are the members of the NIH panel that gave a thumbs up for the ad?

7. Please provide with a list of the publications and web sites that were paid by NIH to run the ad.

I was greatly disappointed NIH's HIV vaccine ad didn't mention a thing about safe sex, or the need to always practice safe sex. Would have been nice if the NIH ad campaigns included something along the lines of, "Absent a vaccine, safe sex is the surest way to avoid contracting HIV," or "Using a condom during sex prevents HIV."

As you may recall, in May 2001 ran a story about an "advertisement for a new AIDS vaccine trial featuring a man alleged to be a porn star is infuriating activists in the San Francisco area who say the ad portrays the disease in a seductive light.

"The ad, which appears on bus shelters throughout San Francisco, features the image of a muscular male performer from the Titan Media video-company, which is widely known in the gay community as a porn distributor. The words, 'Some things are worth taking your shirt off for. Come get a shot in the arm,' accompany the image, along with a logo for Titan Men," said the diversity web site's news article.

The story also stated "AIDS vaccine trial ad is funded by the San Francisco Department of Health, which is using $3,000 in federal money that comes from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). NIH has no direct involvement in the development of the ad, according to James Hadley, NIH spokesperson."

While the NIH funded HIV vaccine awareness campaign no longer uses porn models, I still must question the wisdom of spending federal taxpayer dollars to, as the current ad states, "[t]hank . . . [the] thousands of researchers" who are working to development an effective vaccine. What is the point of allocating funds asking the general public to thank government employees for doing their jobs?

You should be made aware that the Bay Area Reporter has never run it's own series of safe sex informational ads to help prevent the spread of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.

At a time when HIV prevention groups no longer spend their federal dollars on ad campaigns in the gay press promoting safe sex information and practices, I believe it is more important than ever that the BAR, the gay paper with the largest circulation and readership levels in America's gay Mecca and AIDS model city, provide free ads full of safe sex suggestions, as a community service. 

You'd think the publisher, Bob Ross, a longtime donor to Democratic candidates and the national and state Democratic Party machines, would want to use his publication to stop new HIV infections and in the process save gay lives. But, that is not the case with him. 

Federal Election Commission records show that since 1983, Ross' total amount donated to Democratic Party candidates and political action committees was $56,000. [2]

For editor Friday, his FEC file reveals since 1997 he has contributed $1,250 to Sen. Dianne Feinstein's campaigns. [3]

In buying ad space in the BAR, the NIH has provided the owner and political editor with profits they can use in the future to donate to their Democratic Party pals.

With this information in mind, Ross and Friday are most assuredly saddled with bias against the current administration and its policies.

Same goes for the news coverage and political opinions expressed in the paper, which forces me to wonder why NIH feels this publication, with its refusal to run pro bono safe sex ads and which serves as the Democratic Party mouthpiece for gay voters, received federal funds so the NIH HIV vaccines ad could prominently appear in the BAR.

It doesn't sit well with me that by placing the NIH ad in the BAR, HHS is, in essence, tacitly endorsing the lack of consistent safe sex messages in the paper.

As an AIDS patient and an activist, I need funding available for vital necessary medical care and services; blood tests, HIV medicines, doctor visits, etc. I don't need NIH wasting taxpayer dollars on such ads, asking me and the public to express gratitude to government workers.

Better that the taxpayer money spent on the HIV vaccine awareness ad be used for direct health care costs for AIDS patients, or ads that at least say something about the need to practice safe sex.

I look forward to a prompt reply from your office regarding my concerns.

Michael Petrelis
San Francisco, CA
Ph: 415-621-6267



Thursday, May 08, 2003


In a message dated 5/8/2003 2:16:19 PM Pacific Daylight Time, writes:

Mr. Petrelis,

Thank you for bringing the error to our attention. This was an oversight on our part. We meant to say new AIDS cases, rather than "new HIV cases". A retraction will be sent out today, to correct this error.

Thank you again for keeping us on our toes.

Sheila McGee
Communications Director
National Minority AIDS Council
1931 13th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20009
(202) 483-6622 ext. 328
(202) 483-1127
Please support the AIDS Programs @ NMAC - CFC #2504


Dear Ms. McGee:

Thanks for getting back to me soon quickly after we spoke on the telephone, and for recognizing the incredible mistakes in NMAC release. Very glad to know you will be releasing a correction today, which I look forward to reading.

In response to the voicemail message left for me from Lisa Miller, head of the public relations firm
BRW LeGrand, who wants to speak with me about HIV and AIDS stats for San Francisco, I've returned her call because I would like to chat with her about those numbers.

It's deeply troubling that in the 21st year of the American AIDS crisis, an organization like NMAC can make such a mistake about an issue of overriding importance, namely, the rate of new HIV infections here.

According to the latest IRS 990 report for NMAC, available at, which is for FY 2000, the organization's total budget for that year was $8,106,873. More than half of that revenue, $4,879,405 to be precise, came from federal funding sources.

With NMAC awash in so much government money, I would think you, Mr. Paul Kawata, and the BRW LeGrand communications agency, would pay the utmost attention to vital, basic facts about HIV and AIDS stats in San Francisco, and how many new HIV infections are being recorded here.

To be blunt about it, since your organization is rather sloppy with presenting accurate and truthful information about HIV and AIDS statistics, I would like federal auditors to tell me if NMAC has properly and effectively used the large sums of taxpayer dollars. Clearly, to me, your seemingly minor error in the release is illustrative of a larger problem with NMAC--telling the truth about basic numbers.

All this forces me to wonder how NMAC is handling the massive amounts of federal grants it receives annually, so I will write tomorrow to Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson and his Inspector General, to request that an audit be performed on all the contracts NMAC has had with the Health Resources Services Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the National Institutes of Health, for the past five fiscal years.

As you may know, HHS has routinely audited HIV/AIDS nonprofits receiving federal dollars. If you're not familiar with recent HHS audits on HIV/AIDS programs and local partners, for more information on them, go to:, for reports on CDC funded HIV groups; and, for HRSA's Ryan White CARE Act audits.

Seems to me, regardless of NMAC's May 7 release and error, an audit of NMAC and its federal contracts over the last five fiscal years is long overdue. The Inspector General for HHS needs to audit NMAC this year.

It's time not just for me to keep you on your toes, but time for the Inspector General to keep you on your toes, by checking NMAC's books.

As soon as I receive a copy of your retraction, I will post it on my blog at:

Michael Petrelis


May 8, 2003

Paul Akio Kawata
Executive Director
National Minority AIDS Council
1931 13th St. NW
Washington, DC 20009-4432

Dear Mr. Kawata:

Your group's May 7 press release about regional workshop trainings for community-based AIDS agencies, being held in San Francisco next month, either made a huge mistake about HIV infection rates here, or you have discovered some unbelievably good news about new HIV infections falling.

The release said: "Overall, San Francisco's total number of new HIV cases has been decreasing in all racial groups, but the decrease is much slower in minority communities."

To drive this point home, you are quoted as saying, "We are delighted to see that HIV infection rates have dropped in San Francisco overall, but we cannot risk becoming complacent in our efforts to fight the epidemic, especially in minority communities."

I am not aware of any new report from the San Francisco Department of Public Health showing that the HIV infection numbers have in any significant way decreased or dropped. A search of the DPH's web site failed to produce a single shred of evidence backing up your allegation.

If you have any verifiable proof that HIV infections are indeed are the decline here, please tell me where I can locate that HIV data, especially on the web.

You should know that the DPH has told the San Francisco Chronicle, in several stories over the last five months, that HIV infection rates are climbing and that the city records about 1,100 new infections annually. I would add that the paper of record for our city would most likely run an article about a decline of HIV rates, if such a fall were taking place. But, sad to say, the Chronicle has not published any such story in the past four years.

So why, exactly, are you and your organization making the claim that HIV infections are plummeting in San Francisco?

Maybe you are confusing the AIDS statistics with those for HIV infections. Yes, the number of full-blown AIDS diagnoses has been bottoming out since the mid-1990's, but because California does not have a HIV names reporting statute, accurate HIV infection rates for the state, including San Francisco, are notoriously difficult to obtain.

Please explain to me why you and your organization have made the allegation that HIV infections are falling in San Francisco, when there is no data to back up the claim.

Michael Petrelis
Ph: 415-621-6267
- - -

 05/07: National Minority AIDS Council Hosts HIV/AIDS Training for San Francisco's HIV/

National Minority AIDS Council Hosts HIV/AIDS Training for San Francisco's HIV/AIDS Groups

WASHINGTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--May 7, 2003--Bay Area minority community-based organizations (CBOs) working in the field of HIV/AIDS prevention will soon have new ammunition in their fight against the epidemic. The National Minority AIDS Council (NMAC), the nation's largest organization working with communities of color in the war against HIV/AIDS, will host a KIC (Knowledge, Interaction, and Connection) Regional Training, which is a regional workshop for HIV/AIDS organizations, from June 2 to June 6, 2003, at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in San Francisco, California.

Overall, San Francisco's total number of new HIV cases has been decreasing in all racial groups, but the decrease is much slower in minority communities. However, the infection rate (number of cases per 1,000 people) among minority populations is on the rise. According to the San Francisco Department of Public Health, comparing all AIDS cases from 1980 to 1997 versus AIDS cases from 1998 to 2003, the rate among African Americans increased 9 percent, the rate among Latinos increased 4 percent, and the rate among Asian/Pacific Islanders increased 2 percent. In San Francisco, the rate of infection has been steadily shifting toward minority populations; from 1980 to 1997, minorities accounted for 25 percent of new cases, but from 1998 to 2003 they have accounted for 40 percent of new cases.

In a unique effort to reduce rising minority infection rates in the prison system, NMAC has expanded its educational reach to community-based organizations (CBOs) in San Francisco's prison community. NMAC will host a Community Based Organization Prison Initiative Conference, including a visit to San Quentin State Prison (by invitation only). This outreach is designed to teach CBOs how to establish and enhance the relationship with their correctional facility to provide technical assistance that implements HIV education, prevention and transitional planning services for inmates living with HIV/AIDS. The conference will provide plenary sessions, workshops and roundtable discussions as well as distribute educational materials to frontline CBO staff, correctional medical personnel and correctional officers to better facilitate discharge planning for ex-offenders with HIV/AIDS. The conference will also provide a session on Sustainability for the Executive Directors of the Prison Initiative Project's CBOs.

"We are delighted to see that HIV infection rates have dropped in San Francisco overall, but we cannot risk becoming complacent in our efforts to fight the epidemic, especially in minority communities," said Paul A. Kawata, executive director of NMAC. "Nationwide, 50 percent of AIDS cases diagnosed in the last five years have been among minority communities. It is our goal to help CBOs expand and improve their services for San Francisco's minority and incarcerated communities, so we can help this downward trend continue."

San Francisco is one of eight cities nationwide chosen by NMAC to host a KIC Regional Training workshop in 2003. These meetings supply badly needed resources for state and local AIDS organizations that provide prevention and care services for the public. Organizations are taught how to find money, organize staff and maximize resources. These workshops allow community-based organizations to focus ultimately on treatment and prevention efforts.

The NMAC KIC Regional Trainings are supported in part by grants from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Health Resources and Services Administration and the Office of AIDS Research at National Institutes of Health.

About the National Minority AIDS Council

The National Minority AIDS Council (NMAC) was founded in 1987 to develop leadership within communities of color to address the challenges of HIV/AIDS. NMAC has responded to the needs of communities of color by developing programs aimed at enhancing the skills necessary to confront this health crisis, including a public policy education program, national and regional training conferences, a treatment research program and numerous publications. Today NMAC is an association of more than 3,000 AIDS service providing organizations, hospitals, clinics and other groups assisting individuals and their families affected by the AIDS epidemic.


National Minority AIDS Council                        

Sheila McGee, 202/483-6622                                                            


Media contact:                  

BRW LeGrand                               

Jennifer Bailey, 303/298-8470

Mindy Crowe, 303/298-8470            

SOURCE: National Minority AIDS Council

Tuesday, May 06, 2003


Something in my gut told me this writer from the SF Weekly was out to do a hit-piece on me. Maybe it was just the fact that his publication has for two years been a sponsor of the Stop AIDS Project's Dining Out For Life fundraiser. As you can see in the email exchange I had with the Weekly, I politely asked the writer to reference his paper's endorsement of the project through such sponsorship.

He didn't grant my request, nor did he answer my questions. Am I pleased with my decision to not phone him back? Oh, yes.

Subj: Re: SF Weekly sponsored Stop AIDS Project fundraiser 
Date: 5/2/2003 3:29:48 PM Pacific Daylight Time
Sent from the Internet (Details)

Dear Mr. Petrelis,

I'd be glad to discuss these topics with you. Please give me a call.


Matt Smith

>>> 05/02/03 03:17PM >>>
In a message dated 5/2/2003 3:07:09 PM Pacific Daylight Time, writes:

> Dear Mr. Petrelis,
> I'd really like a chance to speak with you. Please give me a call.
> Kindly,
> Matt

Mr. Smith:

In light of the Weekly's sponsorship this year, and maybe last year's
Out For Life fundraiser for the Stop AIDS Project, I have a few
questions for

Does such sponsorship in any way jeopardize or call into question your

objectivity, when writing about the organization?

Can you, or any reporter, hope to be fair and balanced in writing a
about an organization that his paper has supported through a
sponsorship such
as this?

Also, I would be most curious to know why you are writing a story about
HIV audits and who told you to contact me.

Why are the audits all of sudden of interest to you and the Weekly?

I'd appreciate a reply.



Perhaps my reticence for dealing with any San Francisco reporters and writers is because I believe I can't a fair shake from them.

Reporters like Matt Smith, in general, only call me about the audits and investigations I have helped launched against the HIV prevention mafia here because they've been convinced by mafiosi that there's a story here.

Yes, there is, but it really isn't just who's behind the audits and why; it's also a story about HIV prevention organizations failing to meet their stated goals. Something not addressed in this story.

I have no obligation to talk to writers, whose agenda does not asking the following question: Is the federally funded HIV prevention industry in San Francisco able to produce independently verified evidence proving their programs are effective at stopping new HIV and STD infections?

I wish to respond to one charge leveled against me by the writer. Smith writes:  "The Stop AIDS Project has suffered the tireless attention of self-proclaimed AIDS activist Michael Petrelis, whose greatest fame came from being jailed last year on charges that he and a cohort stalked and made criminal threats against employees of the S.F. Chronicle and the Department of Public Health."

Yes, I was incarcerated for 72 days from November 2001 until February 2002, but, for me, my greatest fame, which more than anything in my activist career I wish to be remembered for is the ceaseless work I performed for justice for the murder of gay US sailor Allen Schindler in 1992-1993.

As nothing more than a queer gadfly, I had to take on the Pentagon, the US Navy, the American Embassy in Tokyo, and a sometimes uninterested media, to secure justice for Schindler brutal death at the hands of another US sailor, which the military did its damnedest to portray the death as deserved because Schindler may have been cruising a public toilet for sex.

I know something about calling attention to a problem, one that stems from a powerful institution, like the US Navy or the CDC, that most other gays and queers would rather ignore.

May 2003 marks the 10 year anniversary of the trial against Schindler's killer convicted of murder in a military court in Yokuska, Japan. There was only was one queer advocate present as an observer: me. Twice, I traveled to Japan to call attention to the life and death of Schindler. No other queer gadfly cared enough to hold the US military accountable for its cover-up into the circumstances that led to his demise, and the aftermath.

And I say unto my adversaries in AIDS Inc; you may be able to generate these sort of puff pieces in the San Francisco press, and occasionally the national media, but, even if I were to die tonight, the AIDS accountability chickens will continue to return home and roost. You've had decades and billions of dollars allocated to prevent new HIV infections and adequately take care of people with HIV, and you've done a lousy job. Your days of no or lame accountability ended a long time ago.

No matter how many stories like this are generated, they will have no impact on stopping new audits and investigations by federal officials. Get used to it.

Here is the SF Weekly story, which I expect and hope will be widely distributed among policymakers of all political persuasions.
- - -

SF Weekly
May 7, 2003

Vicious Cycle
Federal investigators clear AIDS prevention programs of wrongdoing -- and then reinvestigate them

David Evans, the slight, soft-spoken program director of the Castro's Stop AIDS Project, and the group's publicist, Shana Krochmal, share a couch in Evans' closet-size office, reflecting upon their bizarre season of stardom. There were the calls from Big Media, such as The O'Reilly Factor. There was an endless stream of interview requests from newspapers around the world. Congressional staffers called, as did aides to White House Cabinet officials. Eventually, teams of federal auditors came, followed by high-ranking officials with the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta. Those visits, in turn, spawned audit reports, then more phone calls in a cycle that has continued for more than a year. "There was something so surreal about it all," Evans recalls. "Most of us doing this work don't come from backgrounds where one does a lot of talking with people in high places. Suddenly we were getting urgent calls saying we had to respond to Congressman So and So, or we were getting calls from officials who would intimate that the president of the United States was somehow personally involved."

The Stop AIDS Project's peculiar adventure -- in which a bullying local gadfly apparently joined forces with conservative Christian politicians in what looked like a campaign to harass HIV/ AIDS prevention programs out of existence -- has become a story without end.

After gaining experience harassing the Stop AIDS Project by exploiting the federal audit process -- a system set up with the noble goals of preventing government fraud and waste -- right-wing politicians went on to use audits and inquiries as a kind of cudgel against numerous AIDS prevention programs.

Neither the Centers for Disease Control nor the Inspector General's Office of the federal Department of Health and Human Services would tell me exactly how many, or which, federally funded anti-AIDS groups are now under investigation. But officials with AIDS prevention organizations around the country say federal probes, instigated at the request of fundamentalist congressmen, are now occupying an important portion of these groups' time. And in an unusual reversal of ordinary investigative protocol, where sleuths pursue hints of wrongdoing in hopes of finding more, these examinations seem to be spurred by Republicans' frustration at so far finding virtually no wrongdoing at all.

According to AIDS activists around the country, this extraordinary AIDS-funding gumshoe campaign has crossed the line from scrupulous government oversight -- a very good thing -- to relentless politically motivated harassment. This is bad, bad, bad.

Investigators are looking at "every penny to program providers that do progressive work, like Stop AIDS," says William Smith, program director of the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the U.S. "If it's intimidating for a national program like us to be investigated, what is it like for a small program that doesn't understand the Bush administration's intimidation tactics?"

Early last year, highly publicized GOP outrage over Stop AIDS Project workshops, which discussed cruising, masturbation, condoms, and other such startling issues, was followed by an extraordinary series of federal audits; the Department of Health and Human Services sent a team of investigators for repeated, lengthy visits. The Centers for Disease Control sent high-level teams from Atlanta. The charge: Stop AIDS had produced safe-sex materials and workshops that were obscene. Worse, the group allegedly violated a law prohibiting use of federal funds to encourage sex -- yes, there really is such a federal blue law, and conservative Christians take it very seriously. The right-wing allegation was repeated in newspaper articles and editorials as if it were fact: Tax dollars are being squandered to promote debauchery.

But the resulting audit reports emphatically vindicated Stop AIDS. The organization had run racy-seeming AIDS education materials past an S.F. Health Department committee set up under federal guidelines to judge the materials according to San Francisco community standards. Such local policies were created around the country in light of U.S. Supreme Court rulings that say obscenity is a highly local notion; San Franciscans' ideas of what's offensive may be different from those of, say, an Indiana congressman's.

For instance, Stop AIDS's calendar includes a May workshop titled "Top, Bottom, Versatile," the description of which asks, "[D]o you like taking it? Giving? Both?" The course's purpose is to discuss "roles, power and other topics related to anal play and health." Translation: a workshop discussing complex interpersonal negotiations regarding condom use, so that fewer people will catch HIV and die.

AIDS activists say these federal inquiries, which they believe are politically rather than fiscally motivated, tie up hundreds of hours of volunteer and staff time. They waste many thousands of dollars in federal staff time, airline tickets, and other audit expenses. And, perhaps more important, they discourage AIDS workers from pursuing any program that might catch the attention of a right-wing conservative, undermining AIDS education efforts nationwide.

The charge that Stop AIDS broke laws making it illegal to use federal funds to promote sexual intercourse likewise went nowhere: The promiscuous gay men who make up Stop AIDS's target audience need no encouragement to have sex. And finally, the group passed a financial audit swimmingly.

It seems someone neglected to tell Republican conservatives the Castro is a poor spot to cruise for unfastidiousness.

The glowing audit reports did nothing to stem the requests for investigations. Like a marauding ghost ship, the inquiries and reviews of federally funded AIDS programs never subsided, although media attention has.

A CDC spokeswoman tells me that during the past few months that agency has sent officials to 11 randomly selected community-based AIDS prevention organizations "as part of the CDC's ongoing efforts to look at HIV prevention programs. These site visits and reviews will continue."

The HHS inspector general, meanwhile, has completed audits of several AIDS prevention programs in addition to its extensive investigation of the Stop AIDS Project. A spokeswoman tells me the audits will go on. "We told [Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson] that we would do additional work in this area," she says. "There is other work still going on, but we've never identified the locations that we're at."

The March 1 edition of Thompson Healthcare Company's newsletter AIDS Alert provides some clues. Inspector general auditors are examining the Global AIDS Program, which provides federal money to attack AIDS overseas, according to the newsletter. Federal sleuths are looking at how the CDC accounts for spending on HIV program activities. They're conducting an audit of how the CDC monitors federal grants to programs such as the Stop AIDS Project. And, once the audit of the Global AIDS Program is done, investigators will conduct an audit into whether the CDC obeys federal laws in deciding which AIDS groups to fund, the AIDS Alert article says.

The Sexuality Information and Education Council of the U.S., a group that promotes sex education, has been subjected to similar scrutiny. Twenty-four members of Congress recently sent a letter to Secretary Thompson asking for an investigation into SIECUS, along with Advocates for Youth and Planned Parenthood. These groups had jointly sponsored a Web site protesting the diversion of AIDS funding to Christian fundamentalist-backed "abstinence education." A federal inquiry soon followed. As in the other cases, it turned up no wrongdoing.

"We're huge proponents of the idea that tax dollars should be spent appropriately. Anyone who says we're trying to undermine the appropriate use of tax dollars is throwing up a red herring," says SIECUS's Smith. "When you have more auditors in a program than actual people doing the program, that tells me there's something else at work."

It's fitting that the cycle of vindication followed by stepped-up federal inquiry now haunting AIDS prevention programs began in San Francisco. Conservative Christians tend to fetishize obscure sexual practices, and they often turn to our city for help. I experienced this phenomenon four years ago when I wrote about a sexually obscene performance art piece; the story appeared on dozens of right-wing Web sites, and years later it still seems to get reposted to a new one every month. And so it was that in last year's saturation coverage of the Stop AIDS Project, stories quoting multiple conservative voices tended to include the term "rimming."

In addition to providing fodder for fundamentalist sexual obsessions, San Francisco suffers another tradition, equally distasteful, which has played an important role in the ongoing federal AIDS program witch-hunt. Like 17th-century Salem, San Francisco tends to aggrandize lonely, mean gadflies. The Stop AIDS Project has suffered the tireless attention of self-proclaimed AIDS activist Michael Petrelis, whose greatest fame came from being jailed last year on charges that he and a cohort stalked and made criminal threats against employees of the S.F. Chronicle and the Department of Public Health.

In news reports, Web log references, gay newspaper citations, and copies of mass e-mails from Republican congressional staffers given me by Krochmal, the Stop AIDS publicist, Petrelis is described as having spawned the endless audits by writing to members of Congress complaining that taxpayer dollars were being spent on what he described as sexually explicit anti-AIDS workshops.

Petrelis' precise motives for doing this are hard to pin down; he styles himself as a good-government, public-openness advocate, saying federally funded AIDS programs receive insufficient oversight. He also says AIDS education programs stigmatize homosexuals. He's joined forces with AIDS denier David Pasquarelli in a campaign to reopen San Francisco bathhouses, saying he dislikes having to travel to other cities for anonymous sex. In compendium, Petrelis' odd list of causes reads like the sort of activist résumé typical of San Francisco arrivals who have discovered that the city's inclusive, help-the-little-guy political culture can be easily hijacked by self-promoters.

Evans, the Stop AIDS Project program director, says Petrelis has worked in concert with AIDS-audit-obsessed congressional aide Roland Foster to keep the pressure on HIV education groups. Both Petrelis and Foster have been quoted by the Washington Times as saying programs such as Stop AIDS are ineffective and waste taxpayer money. An August e-mail from Petrelis to former Stop AIDS Project Director Steve Gibson mentions a Stop AIDS schedule and asks: "Can you tell me if any HIV prevention funds from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are being used to put on these forums? If CDC funds are being used for these events, can you inform me as to how much CDC money is being spent on the meetings?"

Foster, a staffer on the House Government Reform committee, did not return my call requesting comment. Petrelis refused in an e-mail message to be interviewed. He wrote that he would respond to written questions by e-mail; I generally don't agree to this type of e-mail Q&A because it results in non sequitur responses with no opportunity for follow-up, making it a waste of time.

Though I didn't get to speak with him, I did get the sense that Petrelis has been pleased with Republican success in pressuring AIDS prevention programs. Last month the Los Angeles Times reported that the federal government will curtail spending on safe-sex programs designed to prevent HIV among uninfected people in favor of a campaign to stop the spread of the virus by those who already have it. AIDS activists say this reduced funding of safe-sex education programs, including the Stop AIDS Project, is the result of pressure from both the Bush administration and conservative members of Congress who have objected to explicit HIV prevention materials.

It's perhaps an apt conclusion to the Republican pressure Petrelis apparently helped launch.

In a posting to his Web log last week titled "I am the happy homosexual," he praised the L.A. Times story:

"My happiness stems from the tone of the story and from a quote [the Times reporter] got from the executive director of the National Association of People With AIDS, Terje Anderson, about the CDC shift: 'There ain't going to be any more safe-sex workshops. There ain't going to be any more public attitude campaigns around this.'"

Monday, May 05, 2003


The Inspector General Office of the federal Department of Health and Human Services recently published its findings after an audited was conducted on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention funded Multicultural AIDS Center of Boston, Massachusetts.

The web page for the HHS IG's office shows the following the title for the report, which was issued on January 27, 2003.

"Audit of HIV/AIDS Activities at the Multicultural AIDS Coalition for the Period July 1, 2000 Through September 30, 2002," (A-01-02-01503)

Here is the Executive Summary of the HHS IG's audit:

"The Multicultural AIDS Coalition (MAC) has generally met its overall performance expectations but needs to improve its financial management system to ensure grant funds are used for the intended purpose.

"We specifically found that: 

"(1) MAC allocated personnel costs to federal grants based on budget estimates because it had not developed a system for allocating salaries and wages to federal grants and contracts based on personnel activity reports for each employee; and

"(2) two MAC employees, whose salaries were paid with CDC funds, appeared to be involved in lobbying activities—an unallowable charge under federal regulations. 

"We recommended that MAC continue its efforts to:  implement its revised system for allocating personnel costs and periodically monitor the personnel costs charged to federal awards; and develop written policies and procedures addressing the types of costs and activities that are unallowable as charges to federal grants."

I searched the web pages for the Boston Globe, the Boston Herald and the city's weekly gay newpaper, Bay Windows, and didn't locate any stories about the HHS IG's audit.

It is my hope that all these papers will examine the full audit and determine if the findings are of interest to their readers, as I believe they should be.

I applaud the HHS IG for conducting this audit of the Multicultural AIDS Coalition and for publishing the findings on the web. Let's hope the HHS IG'S office continue to audit HIV prevention groups funded by the CDC to make sure federal funds are properly spent and accounted for.

The entire report can be located at: .

Michael Petrelis
Ph: 415-621-6267

Sunday, May 04, 2003


Back in the 1980s, the late Michael Callen and other people living with AIDS in New York City were fed up with being called and treated like victims because they had contracted the disease. They founded the People With AIDS Coalition, PWAC, with one central theme: self-empowerment for PWAs.

To spread their philosophy, they began publishing the PWAC Newsline on a monthly basis. One of the best features in the Newsline was a column written by Callen and the late Ken Meeks that monitored the mainstream media coverage of AIDS and people with the disease. Frequently, Callen and Meeks rightly took reporters to task for either portraying patients as victims with little or no control over their destinies, or held the news media accountable when they failed to included the voices and concerns of persons with AIDS.

Unfortunately, the contents of the PWAC Newsline on not available on line, but two important beliefs that drove the founders are.

It was vital that PWAs “[f]orm caucuses to choose their own representatives, to deal with the media, to choose their own agenda and to plan their own strategies,” to remind reporters and the general public that “[w]e are People with AIDS and People with AIDS-Related Complex (ARC) who can speak for ourselves to advocate for our own causes and concerns.” [1]

I was thinking about the PWAC Newsline media watch column recently because of another article, in a seemingly endless series of stories appearing the San Francisco Chronicle about the very real present-day needs of AIDS patients, that didn’t include a single quote from a publicly identified person living with HIV/AIDS.

On May 1, the Chronicle ran an otherwise excellent piece about the state of California making plans for cutting back on the availability of AIDS medications, due to the budget deficit. [2]

According to the Chronicle, “About 26,000 Californians with AIDS rely on ADAP, or the AIDS Drug Assistance Program, for their costly life-sustaining antiviral drugs as well as treatments for a variety of infections that result from weakened immune systems.”

The paper also quoted a lobbyist for the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, expressing worry about the looming AIDS drug crisis for people with the illness.

"We're very concerned," said Dana Van Gorder, on behalf of the foundation. "There could be literally a few thousand Californians who suddenly find themselves in a situation where they cannot find medications."

A total of four AIDS bureaucrats, including Van Gorder, were quoted and, in general, I am in agreement with their sentiments.

However, it would have made for a more honest piece of AIDS journalism, heck, plain ol’ journalism, if the Chronicle had bothered to find just one of the estimated 26,000 state residents with AIDS who depend on ADAP for their AIDS-fighting medications to quote. Perhaps one AIDS patient could have expressed the fear he or she feels about the possibility of losing access to the drugs.

Such a story would have driven Callen and Meeks up the wall with frustration. They often wrote about how journalists had a responsibility to include the voices of women if the story was about abortion, or the concerns of black and Hispanics if the article in question pertained to affirmative action, and, of course, when the piece dealt directly with AIDS and those afflicted with the disease, the reporters should locate a PWA or two to quote.

While great strides have been made in combating AIDS and keeping patients alive longer, this sort of Chronicle story, omitting the personal concerns of someone actually with the disease, shows me how in some ways, we are still living in the dark days of the 1980’s, when reporters routinely felt no need to put people with AIDS in their coverage.