Thursday, January 20, 2005

Dear Friends:

In a year-end interview with San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, Chris Bull of Planet Out made the following claim about HIV infections in San Francisco, before asking the mayor a question about the alleged rise.

"Let's talk about an issue that has taken a back seat to marriage. HIV infection rates are up among some groups of gay men. What are you doing about it?" (Source:

I was surprised to read Bull's allegation that HIV transmissions among some gay men in this city were up, because of all the available data on the San Francisco Department of Public Health's web site shows otherwise.

Thinking that Bull must have data to back up his claim, I emailed him and asked if he could cite a source for his claim.

Here's his reply:

>>i said it was "up" among "some" groups, by which i meant young gay men and people over [sic] color.

even the best hiv denialists can't deny that fact.<<

You'll notice Bull didn't provide a link to any data. Instead, he parsed his own words and then segued into a statement about HIV denialists, which has nothing to do with his inability to authenticate his claim of a rising HIV rate among some groups in San Francisco.

Well, here's some news for Bull. Today's edition of the Bay Area Reporter has an excellent story by Matthew S. Bajko about the latest HIV stats for all groups here.

The BAR headline? "San Francisco HIV cases continue to plateau."

Notice the word continue. It means, in case Bull has forgotten, that the flat HIV rate here has been going on for a while, even back in December when he interviewed the mayor.

The BAR article details reports from SF DPH HIV epidemiologists documenting stabilization of new HIV infections, which is expected to continue through at least 2007.

There isn't a single reference in the BAR story about supposed HIV surges among young gays or people of color, despite Bull's unsubstantiated claim. You can be sure that if the SF DPH had any evidence about HIV going up for either group, it would be presented to the BAR and reported on.

Unfortunately, the BAR is not on line, but if you want to contact Bajko or the BAR news editor to verify my assertions about what the paper is reporting today, please write to them at or

This is just the latest story in the past twelve months about HIV rates in San Francisco either leveling off or slightly declining.

This is what the San Francisco Chronicle noted last February.

"A steep rise in syphilis cases among gay men in San Francisco has not produced a related increase in HIV infections, researchers reported Tuesday, stirring hope that the city may avoid a new wave of AIDS cases abetted by other sexually transmitted diseases.

"The findings, together with other data pointing to decreases in unsafe sexual practices, hint that the overall rate of HIV infections in San Francisco, which began increasing in 1998, may be starting to ebb." (Source:

If Bull wants to read the latest annual HIV report for the city, he can follow this link,, and see for himself how there is data in the report about increases for young gays or people of color.

Bull can also check out the most current Counseling, Testing and Referral HIV report and see how there's no rise in it.

Should Bull want to look at even more HIV data for the city, he can look at the past two monthly sexually transmitted disease reports at and, and read about the declining HIV infection rate at the municipal STD clinic.

Of course, he can choose to remain ignorant about what is really happening in San Francisco regarding flat, not rising, HIV rates. If he does have genuine data about his claimed HIV rises, Bull might want to share it with the SF DPH, the BAR and the Chronicle.

Heck, if Bull is smart he will learn a lesson from CBS's Dan Rather and simply admit he can't authenticate his claim and issue an apology.

Michael Petrelis

San Francisco, CA

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