Friday, July 29, 2005

Gay Russians Write Putin, Hold News Conference on Iran's Killings

Russian gay leaders appeal against executions in Iran during special press conference in Moscow

Russian politicians were scared to come, they did not want “to sit next to gays”. Russian authorities should do everything to pressure Iran to fulfill its international obligations

On 28 July 2005 a press conference took place in the National Information Group ( in Moscow in order to attract attention of the Russian and International community to the recent executions of young gays in Iran. Press conference was given by Nikolai Alekseev, head of the Project GayRussia.Ru, and Evgeniya Debryanskaya, leader of the Russian lesbian community. The organizers of the event invited several Russian politicians. A few of them agreed to come but later denied. Deputy of the State Duma, lower chamber of the Russian parliament, A. Chuev, author of the bill to ban propaganda of homosexuality, said that he was ill and that he was “not ready to sit close to gays”.

Representatives of the Russian party Union of Rights Forces, known for their human rights actions and support, said that the topic was very controversial and that they were not ready to take part. Press centre of the pro-presidential youth movement “Nashi” said the following: “we just lacked giving speeches together with gays”. Nikolai Alekseev said that it is a real shame that Russian politicians were so scared to come. “The press conference today is clearly about the effects of the policy of repression some of them are pressuring for even here in Russia”.

Several journalists from leading Russian information agencies came to the press centre, representative of Interfax and ITAR-TASS. Nikolai Alekseev and Evgeniya Dedryanskaya condemned the executions of gays in Iran and once again appealed to the Russian authorities, including President Vladimir Putin, to use all diplomatic ways to pressure Iranian regime. They said that by killing those, who committed their so called “crimes” under the age of 18, Iran breached its international obligations, including those embodied in the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights and Convention on the Rights of the Child. Both clearly forbid such executions.

Iran is currently among the leaders of child executions. Nikolai Alekseev underlined that the problem of Iran should be considered in two dimensions. Firstly, criminal prosecution for homosexuality and retaining capital punishment for these actions. Secondly, retaining of death penalty for children.

During the press conference journalists were also interested in the situation of gays in Russia, some of the facts of homophobia were given as well as the results of the poll on the issues of homosexuality. Russian gays also announced their intention to conduct the first ever gay pride in Moscow in May 2006.

Project GayRussia.Ru will continue its actions against barbarism in Iran and pressure for changes in this country.

For further information please write to:

- - -

22 July 2005
Letter to President Vladimir Putin

Dear Vladimir Vladimirovich,

We would like to pay your attention to the event that happened in the Islamic Republic of Iran on 19 July 2005, the execution via hanging of two young boys for the only fact of entering into homosexual relations. One of the boys was 18 while the other even did not reach that age.

Projects GayRussia.Ru and Gayly.Ru join the international condemnation of this barbarian act and ask you to use all the pressure with the aim to stop executions and criminal prosecutions of the persons of homosexual orientation in Iran. Homosexual relations are not a crime in the developed democratic countries, moreover more countries pass laws legalizing same-sex marriages and unions.

International gay community is outraged and appeals to the authorities of all democratic states to stop diplomatic and trade relations with the regime that executes guilty people, including children. We address the same request to you. Russian Federation can not close the eyes to the middle aged barbarity and huge human rights violations.

We hope for your understanding and assistance!

Faithfully yours,

N. Alekseev
Head GayRussia.Ru

V. Kamov
Head Gayly.Ru

E. Debryanskaya
Leader of the Russian lesbian movement

N. Baev
State Dept Claims it Lacks Facts on Iran's Hangings

Odd that Henry T. Wooster, the State Department's analyst who keeps tabs on Iran would tell the Dallas Voice that they don't have any facts about Iran's public hanging of two gays teens on July 19.

In my phone conversations with Wooster he certainly was aware of some of the facts, and he told me about the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty report on the hangings, so why he now claims to lack facts puzzles me.

I have sent Wooster all of the news clippings I've found on the web. They were sent to and I will continue to send his articles about the hangings.

July 28, 2005
The Dallas Voice

Gay activists ask U.S. officials to condemn Iranian executions

State Department issues general statement that fails to mention boys who were hanged because they engaged in sex with each other

By David Webb
Staff Writer

The State Department has issued a statement in response to demands that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice condemn the reported executions of two gay teenagers in Iran, but it falls short activists’ demands.

The Human Rights Campaign sent a letter to Rice last week urging her to speak out against the hangings in Mashhad, Iran, on July 19. The executions were reported by the Iranian Students News Agency and translated for distribution by the British gay rights group Outrage.

Michael Petrelis, a gay rights activist in San Francisco, who also petitioned Rice for a statement condemning the executions, said Edgar Vasquez, a spokesman for the State Department, read the statement to him over the phone.
The activist said he was disappointed that the statement failed to mention the homosexual aspects of the executions.

Vasquez said in the statement, according to Petrelis, that the State Department is concerned about Iran’s judicial process.

“Defendants are not receiving due process of law, and trials lack procedural safeguards,” said Vasquez in the statement. “As noted in our country’s reports on human rights practices, the judge and prosecutor are the same person, trials are frequently held in closed sessions without access to a lawyer and the right of appeal is not often honored. We call upon the government of Iran to vigorously pursue prison reform, cooperate with international investigations of human rights cases and respect international human rights law and practice.”

Petrelis said he will pressure the State Department for harsher criticism. Iranian law makes homosexual acts punishable by death.

Henry Wooster, a State Department official who monitors Iran, said in a telephone interview that the government cannot issue a more specific statement without more information. Iran claims the teenagers were executed because they raped a 13 year old boy at knifepoint.

“We just don’t have any facts, which puts us in a tough position to come out as a government with a statement,” Wooster said.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

OutRage Slams Flaws in Blade's Iran Story

In a message dated 7/28/2005 1:54:33 P.M. Pacific Daylight Time, writes:
Hi Michael,

Many thanks for your efforts re the State Department.

Did you get our news release critiquing the Blade news story?

These flawed reports are HUGELY damaging to LGBT asylum seekers from Iran. The US and UK governments will brandish them in court to say that only rapists are executed.

Copy of my critique of the Blade story below, in case you did not get a copy.

Solidarity! Peter
- - -

Flaws in Blade report of executions in Iran
Gays are executed, Iranian exiles confirm

London - 28 July 2005

"News reports in the US Washington Blade and New York Blade newspapers
on the execution of two teens in Iran are flawed," according to the
British LGBT human rights group OutRage!, which helped break the story
to the international media and human rights groups.

"The news story by Elizabeth Weill-Greenberg, 'Mixed reports on Iran
teen hangings', dated 28 July, contains a number of errors," said
Peter Tatchell of OutRage!

"OutRage!’s sources for our reportage of this story include
clandestine gay and lesbian activists inside Iran, members of the
democratic and left Iranian opposition, and the websites of
pro-government news agencies in Iran.

"Much of the Blade article disputes claims that the two teenagers were
hanged because they had gay sex. Bizarrely, it gives greater
prominence and credibility to the allegations of rape made by news
agencies linked to the dictatorial, homophobic Iranian government.

"Why should we believe the claims of a judicial and political system
that is one of the most barbaric in the world and which has a proven
record of lying to cover up its crimes against humanity?

"The Blade story does, however, conclude with a comment from a gay
Iranian exile. He is in a better position than most people to know how
the Iranian regime operates and to judge the credibility of its
claims. He questions the rapist allegation; suggesting the two youths
probably were hanged for consensual sex but the government said it was
rape to squash public outrage. This exile also confirms that
confessions are often extracted under torture. This casts serious
doubt on the rape claims. Why was this gay Iranian viewpoint not given
greater prominence in the Blade story?

"We work with many exiled gay Iranians in London. They confirm that
smears and torture against gay people are routine in Iran. Whenever
the regime wants to deflect criticism it trumps up charges of
alcoholism, adultery, rape, homosexuality and drug abuse.

"When interviewed in the back of a police van by a pro-government
journalist from the Iranian Student News Agency (ISNA), shortly before
their execution, the youths spoke candidly about having sex with boys,
protesting that they did not know homosexuality is a capital crime.
This suggests they believed they were being hanged for same-sex
relations, not rape. The ISNA report makes no mention of rape or of a
13 year old boy. It states they were hung for homosexual acts.

"Even so, OutRage! has never said the rape allegations are untrue;
only that we think they are unlikely and that we treat them with the
skepticism they deserve. We acknowledge there are conflicting reports.
It is difficult to be certain about the truth. But on balance we
believe the evidence points to the youths being hanged for same-sex
relations, rather than rape.

"The Blade says the claims of rape are confirmed by the 13 year old
boy's father. That is not proof. It is not surprising that the father
has said his 13 year old son was raped; otherwise his son would have
been hanged as well and the family would become social outcasts for
having a gay child. OutRage! is aware of several cases in the region
where a false claim of rape has been used by parents to spare a family
the shame of having a gay son and to save him from imprisonment and/or

"We must also be open to the possibility that the 13 year old was a
willing participant but that Iranian law (like the laws of many
western nations) deems that no person aged 13 is capable of sexual
consent. In these circumstances, consensual sexual contact with a 13
year old is automatically branded statutory rape.

"It is curious that the Iranian authorities say the 13 year old was
raped. Does the Iranian legal system include the offence of rape of a
male? Does it acknowledge that male rape exists and is possible? If
not, how can the youths have been hanged for the crime of rape?

"Elizabeth Weill-Greeneberg’s report says that the older youth may
have been 19, and therefore not a minor when he committed the alleged
crime. Even the state-sponsored Iranian media said he was 18. We would
like to see any reliable news source that has reported him as being 19
years old.

"The Blade report claims the allegations the boys were executed for
being gay originated with the National Council of Resistance of Iran
(NCRI). This is untrue. The NCRI did not originate the story and it
did not report the reason for their execution.

"The Blade also falsely claims that Iran Focus is the English language
website of the NCRI. Not true.

"The Blade article goes on to smear the NCRI, repeating the US State
Department's smear that it is a “terrorist organisation”. While we do
not share the politics of the NCRI, it has played a heroic role in
resisting the clerical fascist regime in Iran and campaigning for
democracy and human rights. The NCRI is no more a terrorist
organisation than the African National Congress in South Africa or the
anti-Nazi resistance in occupied Europe during World War Two. “While
there have been allegations of human rights abuses by the NCRI, these
pale into insignificance by comparison to the butchery of the Iranian

"The NCRI works with a broad coalition of European parliamentarians,
jurists, lawyers and human rights advocates. It would not enjoy this
supportive relationship if it were a terrorist organisation. NCRI
delegations have recently met with European and Australian
parliamentary representatives.

"We find it shocking that brave people who are fighting for freedom
and against tyranny are being vilified and smeared.

"Contrary to what the Blade says, the report the teens were hanged for
being gay originated with the pro-government Iranian Student News
Agency (ISNA) – not the NCRI. It stated categorically that they were
executed for sodomy. It made no mention of rape or a 13 year old boy.

"Paula Ettelbrick of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights
Commission is reported by the Blade as having condemned OutRage! for
using racially charged language to denounce the executions.

"If she said this, it is a complete fabrication. We have never
attacked anyone’s race or ethnicity.

“Ms Ettelbrick apparently objects to our description of the Iranian
regime in the following terms: ‘This is just the latest barbarity by
the Islamo-fascists in Iran.’”

"We make no apology for denouncing the Iranian dictatorship in these
terms. Its fascist-style tyranny is based on a fundamentalist version
of Islam. The phrase ‘Islamo-fascist’ is used by progressive Muslims
to denounce the fundamentalists and by democratic and left opponents
of the Iranian regime. We agree, and support their struggle.

"We have great respect and admiration for the Blade newspapers, but we
feel their reports on this issue need to be challenged and corrected,”
concluded Mr Tatchell.

Further information: Peter Tatchell +44 (0)20 7403 1790
Rep. Lantos Deplores Iran's Killing of Gays

Subj: Lantos on Iranian youths' execution
Date: 7/28/2005 1:41:58 P.M. Pacific Daylight Time
Sent from the Internet (Details)

July 27, 2005
Contact: Lynne Weil, 202-225-6735

Recent Iranian Executions of Minors and Juvenile Offenders Show Utter Disregard For International Legal Norms and Bigotry, Lantos Says

Washington, DC – Congressman Tom Lantos, the ranking member of the House International Relations Committee, today decried the public flogging and hanging of two Iranian youths as gross violations of Iran’s obligations under international law and disturbing signs of continued bias against homosexuals in Iran.

“This sickening episode shines a bright light on the severe shortcomings of the Iranian legal system,” Lantos said. “No matter what legal sources or traditions a country bases its law upon, there is no justification for whipping and executing people amid an angry mob – particularly not when the convicts committed offenses while they were minors, who are specifically protected under international law. And in this case, authorities apparently chose to play on deep-seated feelings of bigotry toward homosexuality, which can carry the death penalty in Iran.”

Mahmoud Asgari and Ayaz Marhoni were convicted last year of theft, drunkenness and a sexual assault on a 13-year-old boy. They had spent 14 months in prison when their appeal was denied last week; they were each then lashed 228 times in public, and left in the hands of a mob that ended up hanging them. Asgari was 16 and Marhoni 18 when they died.

Lantos, the founding co-chairman of the Congressional Human Rights Caucus, said, “I call on the new Iranian government to immediately announce a moratorium on all executions involving minors or homosexuality, to strictly abide by Iran’s international obligations, and finally to pass long-overdue legislation that abolishes the death penalty for minors.”

Iran is party to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which obligates members not to execute anyone for an offence committed when they were under age 18. In addition, the public nature and extent of the flogging raises serious issues under customary international law, as reflected by the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
HRC Deletes Iran's Gay Executions Letter From Site

July 28, 2005

Gay City News

Gays in Iran are routinely executed.

By Duncan Osborne


“This crime warrants an immediate and strong condemnation from the Department of State,” HRC wrote on July 22.

By July 25, that letter was no longer on HRC’s Web site.

Iran in the Blade; HRC on the Death Penalty

Jay Smith Brown
Human Rights Campaign
Communications Dept.
Washington, DC

Hi Jay:

Thanks for sending the Blade blog story. It appears as though the Blade posted this story and later updated it to delete certain parts and insert new information, so I appreciate having the original version.

Your note does not address a crucial point I raised in my phone chat with you and Joe Solmonese's assistant Brad, which was a request to the Human Rights Campaign to issue an Action Alert, urging members to call, email, fax and snail mail Secretary Rice and request that she condemn Iran's execution of two gay teens.

So I will repeat my question: Can HRC put out an Action Alert calling on the U.S. State Department to loudly decry the killing of two gay teens in Iran last week?

Also, it is my understanding that HRC is officially neutral on the abolishment of the death penalty. As a queer anti-death penalty activist, I'd like to know if indeed your organization is neither for nor against capitol punishment, or, if HRC has joined with thousands of human rights organizations and advocates around the globe who oppose the death penalty.

Frankly, I hope I am wrong in thinking HRC remains neutral on capitol punishment and would very much like to post a message on my blog proclaiming HRC opposes this barbaric practice.

A prompt reply is requested.


In a message dated 7/28/2005 6:24:29 A.M. Pacific Daylight Time, writes:

Michael, I'm sure you saw in today's Blade story. I see you got a statement from the State Dept. Although I don't have any specifics for you, I can say that we, like you, will continue to work strategically to ensure that the truth comes out behind this case.


Mixed reports on Iran teen hangings
Watchdog groups dispute claims two were executed for being gay

A photo of two teenaged males being hanged in Iran last week swept across the Internet with claims they were executed for being gay.

The Human Rights Campaign, a Washington, D.C.-based gay rights group, released a letter this week to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice repeating the allegations and urging her to intervene. The U.K.-based gay rights group Outrage, as well as Belgian Foreign Minister Karel de Gucht, condemned the hangings.

But the circumstances that triggered the executions are now being questioned by several human rights groups, which claim the teenagers, Mahmoud Asgari and Ayaz Marhoni, may not have been killed for being gay.

Research conducted by the International Gay & Lesbian Human Rights Commission, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International has found, so far, that the teenagers were convicted of and executed for sexually assaulting a 13-year-old male, a crime that occurred when the two teens may have been minors.

Asgari's lawyer, Rohollah Razaz Zadeh, told the Associated Press that Iranian courts are supposed to commute death sentences handed to children to five years in jail.

"The judiciary has trampled its own laws," Razaz Zadeh told AP.

But the lawyer said Iran's Supreme Court upheld the verdict and allowed the execution despite his objections.

It appears that reports claiming the boys were executed for being gay originated with the National Council of Resistance of Iran, an opposition group that is classified as a terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department. Accounts of the executions on gay news Web sites referenced reports by the group and its English language news site,

IGHRC, Amnesty and Human Rights Watch have not yet uncovered evidence that the charges were trumped up, officials with those groups said. Asgari and Marhoni also reportedly received 228 lashings while in detention for drinking and theft.

The human rights groups note that Iran's execution and torture of the teenagers remains appalling, no matter the circumstances.

"It was not a gay case," said Paula Ettelbrick, executive director of the International Gay & Lesbian Human Rights Commission, taking issue with the Human Rights Campaign's statement that was quick to condemn the execution as anti-gay.

"We would welcome HRC's involvement in demanding that our government speak out on human rights violations. It was just the wrong case," she said.

Ettelbrick said she was also disturbed by the racially charged language used by some gay rights groups to condemn the execution, such as when Peter Tatchell of Outrage said in a statement, "This is just the latest barbarity by the Islamo-fascists in Iran."

HRC received their information on the executions in Iran primarily from news reports Thursday and Friday, according to Steven Fisher, the group's communications director. An investigation to determine the truth is still needed, he said.

"We don't give one of the most secretive, aggressive nations the benefit of the doubt," Fisher said. "We would be relieved if reports are erroneous that these young Iranian men were punished for something that should never be a crime in any nation."

Congressman Tom Lantos (D-Calif.), the ranking member of the House International Relations Committee, blasted the executions as violations of Iran's obligations under international law and signs of bias against gays.

"This sickening episode shines a bright light on the severe shortcomings of the Iranian legal system," Lantos said in a statement. "No matter what legal sources or traditions a country bases its law upon, there is no justification for whipping and executing people amid an angry mob — particularly not when the convicts committed offenses while they were minors, who are specifically protected under international law.

"And in this case, authorities apparently chose to play on deep-seated feelings of bigotry toward homosexuality, which can carry the death penalty in Iran," he added.

Noel Clay, a State Department spokesperson, said Wednesday afternoon that there were no plans to release an official statement about the executions.

But Michael Petrelis, a San Francisco-based gay activist who has focused his blog on the case of the Iranian executions, said he was read the following statement on Wednesday by State Department spokesperson Edgar Vasquez:

"We remain concerned about Iran's judicial process. Defendants are not receiving due process of law, and trials lack procedural safeguards.

"As noted in our country reports on human rights practices, the judge and the prosecutor are the same person, trials are frequently held in closed sessions without access to a lawyer and the right of appeal is not often honored.

"We call upon the government of Iran to vigorously pursue prison reform, cooperate with international investigations of human rights cases and respect international human rights law and practice," the statement concluded.

Nobel Peace laureate Shirin Ebadi, an Iranian human rights advocate, said on July 23 that as a result of the executions, her Center for the Protection of Human Rights will intensify its fight against the use of the death penalty in Iran on minors.


Wednesday, July 27, 2005

State Department Statement on Iran's Killing of Gays

The following statement was read to me over the telephone this afternoon by Mr. Edgar Vasquez, spokesman for the State Department. It's a shame the U.S. State Department didn't address the homosexual aspects of the killings last week in Iran, but I remain convinced pressure must still be applied to persuade the department to condemn Iran's executions of two gay teens. Mr. Vasquez can be reached at: (202) 647-2492.

"We remain concerned about Iran's judicial process. Defendants are not receiving due process of law, and trials lack procedural safeguards.

"As noted in our country reports on human rights practices, the judge and the prosecutor are the same person, trials are frequently held in closed sessions without access to a lawyer and the right of appeal is not often honored.

"We call upon the government of Iran to vigorously pursue prison reform, cooperate with international investigations of human rights cases and respect international human rights law and practice."
AP Reporter Files Story on Iran's Gay Executions

In a message dated 7/27/2005 3:29:02 P.M. Pacific Daylight Time, writes:

i filed a story. state department criticized iranian judicial system, but made no mention of sexual orientation or of execution as a means of punishment.

My reply to Barry Schweid:

thanks so much. i will look for your story on the web. disappointed the state department didn't address the homosexual aspects of this case.
Gay Russians Interview Gay Iranians About Killings

07/25/2005 16:55:33

Exclusive interview with gay activists in Iran on situation of gays, recent executions of gay teens and the future

GayRussia.Ru, interview conducted by Nikolai Alekseev

Project GayRussia.Ru asked people to sign the letter to the Ambassador of the Islamic Republic of Iran and to the Russian President Vladimir Putin against barbarism that took place in Iran, the execution of two young gays on 19 July 2005. The letters were sent last Saturday.

When we ask people to support and join our actions and when we ourselves responded to the international appeal of the British gay group Outrage!, we also have the obligation to provide you with some follow up and further investigation into what happened. Here now we offer you the testimony of our contacts inside Iran. For their own safety, we will not publish their photo or contact details.

But if you want to send a message to them please e-mail to and we will forward your message to Iran. Our contacts in Iran also collect information on the actions of support from different countries connected with the executions of teen gays. Please send us the information you published or campaigns you conducted locally or internationally. We will transfer everything to our contacts in Iran. After that they will be able to include all the information concerning support in the next issue of their electronic magazine. It will show to local Iranian gays and lesbians that they are not alone as they do not have much information from other sources! Write to us at

We conducted the interview with the publishers and distributors of MAHA, Iran’s Homosexual E-Magazine in Persian (it also means “We” or “Us” in Persian language). They are located in Iran and they gladly answered to our questions about the situation of homosexuals in Iran as well as the perception of the recent event that sparked international outrage with Iranian policy.

GayRussia: Can you tell us a bit about the situation in Iran in terms of access to the information for sexual minorities? And also we would like to know about your own MAHA magazine.

MAHA: Last year, the Persian Internet operator company shut down 15 gay websites in Iran. To strike back and to provide information about GLBT rights in Iran, and to help to create a nationwide network for GLBT in the country, a few gays decided to start publishing a newspaper without a website, as they knew that the authority would close down their website, so they decided to publish a PDF format magazine and send it by email to their readers.

After 8 months of hard work, 8 issues and 4 supplements appeared, covering issues such as gay and family, depression among GLBT, a report about lesbians in Iran, etc. MAHA also publishes a separate supplement for gay aid and to help GLBT to find a friend. Today MAHA has two editors, one gay and one lesbian, and MAHA’s readers are all over the country and even some Iranian GLBT in exile. Currently 600 subscribers receive our magazine and we know that more than 1000 people are reading it. This number is growing every day!

PGLO (Persian gays and lesbians organisation) is an Iranian GLBT organisation working from abroad. They publish a PDF format magazine and most important they send a weekly radio program by email to people inside Iran.

G.R.: Do you have any further details on what happened on July 19th except what was published in the international media?

MAHA: Unfortunately not much. The authorities try to give as little information as possible about issues which may cause international reaction. And as you may know there is already a worldwide reaction and protests against the execution of the two boys.

We know that the two boys (with the names of Mohammad Askari and Ayad Marhuni) belonged to Iran’s Arab minority, which live in Khuzestan province, a province bordering Iraq. During the 8 years war between Iran and Iraq, the Arabs were forced to leave their home and some of them went to Mashhad in North East of Iran. The two boys were from one of these families.

We also know that the authorities have been giving conflicting messages. Some are denying that the boys were persecuted because of being gays and they put more emphasize on the boy’s crime (allegedly they have raped a 13 years old boy), but according to the boys lawyer the boys had said that they did not know that such acts (sexual relations with the person of the same sex) were punished by execution. It shows that the boys were executed because of having same-sex intercourse.

The problem in Iran is that there is no harmonised authority in the country and one local authority sometimes makes a decision contrary to the other part of the country.

G.R.: Do you see a possible link with the killing and the result of the recent presidential elections?

MAHA: It’s hard to say and it’s too early to see such a link. We know that the newly elected president is a conservative hardliner, we know that while he was a mayor of Tehran he was very much against cultural activities (such culture activities that promote modern western life style). But we also know that he could not resist the democracy movement and NGO, as we would like to do as the desire for democracy, freedom and separation of religion from politics is indeed strong in Iran.

G.R.: Was this execution event reported in the media in Iran or not?

MAHA: Yes, it was reputed and even some of international reaction to the event was reported but as you can guess the media is controlled by the regime to a large extent.

However, inside Iran, there is a large number of NGO like children’s rights, women’s rights, human rights groups etc. but also Ms. Shirin Ebedadi (peace Noble prize winner) protested against the execution. The situation in Iran is so that no one can talk openly about GLBT rights so those who protested, they protested against execution of children (one of the boys was clearly under 18 years old). The other problem is the conflicting messages from authorities, so no one wants to defend someone who raped a young 13 years old boy, as authority claims now.

G.R.: What is the situation of gays in Iran? How can gays live in the atmosphere of constant fear?

MAHA: The GLBT situation in Iran has changed over the past 26 years. The regime does not systematically persecute gays anymore, there are still some gay websites, there are some parks and cinemas where everyone knows that these places are meeting places for gays, furthermore it is legal in Iran that transsexual applies for sex change and it is fully accepted by the government. There are some medias which sometimes (not often) write about such issues. Having said that, the Islamic law, according to which gays punishment is death is still in force but it is thought not much followed by the regime nowadays.

You may remember the Soviet days, there was not much info about homosexuality in your country, families and the society could not accept it and the regime did not allow GLBT to have their organisations or to spread info about the issue. The situation is pretty much the same in Iran today. But thanks to Internet and contact with the International community, people get the info and Iran society has changed a lot and support for GLBT rights is growing in Iran though we still have a long way to go.

In the recent elections there was a candidate who put “RESPECT FOR DIFFERENT LIFE STYLES” in his program. And it was something new. We do not know if he really meant gay life but we know that his front is not anti gay. In addition there is a famous political person, Mr. Akbar Ganji, who also openly talks about RESPECT FOR DIFFERENT LIFESTYLES. Add to that GLBT which is still in the beginning of its journey but it is young and determined to fight for GLBT rights. There are also opposition political groups in exile and some of them voiced their support for GLBT rights in their program.

So, on the whole, we are optimistic about the future as Iran’s situation can not continue like that and people are pushing for reforms and changes.

G.R.: How do Iranian gays live knowing that they fear death penalty in their motherland and that in other countries same sex marriages are already allowed?

MAHA: Life is not easy, it is mixed with fear, uncertainty and self oppression. The biggest problem we are facing is that GLBT do not have info about their sexual desire. They simply can not find explanation to it. Why they feel as they feel (feeling for persons of the same sex), they do not know what it is. What it’s called etc. but when they get the knowledge, then it is becoming much easier. Not all Iranians have access to the Internet, there are no gay bars or clubs, so creating a network of GLBT is very difficult. Bear in mind that after 8 months of publishing MAHA, still a great number of GLBT people have not got the news.

Many GLBT people are living with denial of their own sexuality, or they get married in hope to disguise and hide their deep homosexual desire or in hope to be cured of it.

G.R.: What can we do from abroad to help you?

MAHA: You have already done too much for us and we are very thankful for it. Iran’s GLBT struggle is in its beginning and no doubt that we have a lot of challenges in front of us and there are a lot of obstacles we have to overcome. The authorities are not going to accept our right easily. And they may even take a hard stand against us. So we are indeed in need of International GLBT support. Please do keep an eye on Iran and demand a better life and respect for Iranian GLBT. Your support means a lot for us and gives us energy and encouragement. Despite the fact that you may not hear from Iran GLBT regarding your support, please rest assured that we hear about it and we welcome it but sometimes it is not easy to work and be in touch with our friends abroad. We would like to take the opportunity and via you say a big THANK YOU to ALL GLBT groups and individuals worldwide who are thinking of us and supporting us.

G.R.: Thank you very much for your answers in such a difficult time. We are here to support you and please do not hesitate to ask for any help you might need.
AP May Call State Dept About Gay Killings in Iran

Just got off the phone with an Associated Press reporter who covers the State Department. He told me the wire service has run a story about the European Union condemning last week's execution of two gay teens in Iran, but no story has been put by the AP in Washington because the State Department has not issued a statement about the deaths.

I asked the AP reporter to please ask about the executions at the next daily press briefing at the State Department. He promised to not wait for a daily press briefing and instead said he would phone the department regarding Iran's killing of the two gay teens.

Let's hope the reporter gets a statement out of State, one condemning the executions, and that the AP puts out a story on the barbaric killings.

In another development, the U.S. government's Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty web site is running a brief story on the executions, that mentions nothing about the homosexuality of the victims.

Here's the story:

By Bill Samii

Two males -- one of them under the age of 18 -- who were found guilty of raping a 13-year-old boy at knifepoint were hanged in Mashhad on 19 July, Radio Farda reported the next day.

They also received 228 lashes prior to their execution. Iran is a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of Child, which prohibits the execution of people under the age of 18.

However, Iranian law allows for the execution of females older than nine years of age and males older than 15, according to Radio Farda. The practice has been protested by the European Union and human-rights organizations, and in January the UN Committee on the Rights of Child urged Iran to take steps to halt the execution of children.

Shiva Dolatabadi, spokesperson for the Association for the Protection of Children's Rights, told Radio Farda that Iranian authorities had reassured her organization that no children were facing the death penalty.

Prior to their execution, the two males reportedly expressed remorse and pledged not to repeat their actions.

One of the two said that although he admitted his actions in court, he did not know they were illegal.

(Source: RFE/RL story)

If you haven't yet contacted the State Department to demand they deplore the killing of gays in Iran last week, please do so today.

Secretary Rice: 202-647-5291
Henry T. Wooster, State Dept. Iran desk: 202-647-0114

Secretary Rice: 202-647-2283

Secretary Rice: Contact Madame Secretary

Silence from the U.S. State Department about Iran executing gay teens is not acceptable. Help persuade Secretary Rice to speak out against Iran's barbarism.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Condoleezza Must End Silence About Iran's Gay Executions

[Dear Friends:

It's been a week since Iran killed two gay teens and the U.S. State Department has yet to say a word about the deaths.

I am asking for your help in persuading the State Department and Secretary Rice to loudly condemn Iran's stupidity. Please do one or more of the following suggestions.

Secretary Rice: 202-647-5291
Henry T. Wooster, State Dept. Iran desk: 202-647-0114

Secretary Rice: 202-647-2283

Secretary Rice: Send an email to Madame Secretary

Here's a copy of the letter I've sent to Secretary Rice and hope you will send a similar request to her today. I've also called her office and the assistant in charge of Iranian issues, leaving messages asking them to publicly deplore Iran's killing of two gays.

Please contact the State Department and demand this agency speak out about the tragic execution of two gays in Iran last week. Thanks.]

July 26, 2005

The Honorable Condoleezza Rice
Secretary of State
State Department
2201 C Street, NW
Washington, DC 20520

Dear Madame Secretary:

Iran executed two gay teens on July 19, sparking worldwide condemnation by gay and human rights organizations of these barbaric state-sanctioned killings, according to a story in the Times of London last week.

In light of the outrageous hanging of these gay Iranian teens and our country's commitment to protecting the human rights of all the world's citizens, I believe you have a responsibility to strongly and unequivocally deplore the executions by the Iranian government.

I wish to remind you of your comments about persecution of gays and the denial of basic human rights for gays around the world during a May 27 talk in San Francisco at the Commonwealth Club:
MS. DUFFY [moderator]: Moving on from Iraq, let's talk about human rights a bit. We are here in San Francisco and there's a question, what are you doing to ensure that countries like China and Egypt uphold the civil rights of its gay citizens, of their gay citizens?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, obviously, from our point of view, a democratic and tolerant society is exactly that. It is a society in which all people are included. It does not matter what race, what gender, it does not matter what sexual orientation -- all that matters is that you are a citizen of that country. And indeed, we note that in countries that are democratic, in countries where there can be pressure on government, in countries where there can be checks and balances on government, then the rights and -- the rights of the most vulnerable in society tend to be more protected. And so we are concentrating in places like China and in Egypt and in other places on human rights. Whenever we have discussions with these countries, we talk about human rights. And the United States issues something called a Human Rights Report every year that talks about the human rights conditions in each country and so -- very much in line with the notion that every citizen needs to be represented and rights protected. We believe that this is the way to handle this situation. [2]

While I am pleased you expressed deep concern for gay citizens everywhere, I am very troubled that you have yet to issue any statements, comments, denunciations or criticisms against Iran over the immoral death by hanging of two gay teens.

Please end your silence about Iran's killing of the gay teens, forcefully condemn the executions and call attention to this despicable behavior by the Iranian government.


Michael Petrelis

San Francisco, CA

1. Times of London
2. Rice's May 27 remarks

Monday, July 25, 2005

Opinions, Not Facts From BAR Columnist

The Bay Area Reporter's relatively new political gossip columnist, Bill Barnes, a member of the local Democratic Party's central committee and former aide to ex-Mayor Willie Brown and Supervisor Chris Daly, recently ran an item trashing my comments at the July 11th meeting of the Ryan White CARE Council.

I doubt it's news to many that my agenda doesn't square with that of Democrats, the local CARE council, SF DPH and AIDS Inc, but Barnes nonetheless wrote nasty things regarding my call for a federal audit of AIDS epidemiology in San Francisco.

Of course, there's nothing wrong with political gossip columnists putting their agendas and opinions in their weekly columns and attacking their adversaries, but for once, I would appreciate it if the writer would acknowledge, in print, his own comments and political concerns to the same CARE council I addressed earlier this month.

If you read Barnes column about the July 11 meeting, you know that he wrote not a single word about his agenda that day. Because the B.A.R. is too cheap to maintain a web site, I can't link to an online version of Barnes' column so you can see for yourself what he wrote.

However, the minutes of the CARE council meeting have been posted to the web, showing Barnes spoke four times during public comment, and that he had his own agenda, which he conveniently neglected to write about.

Barnes is certainly entitled to share his opinions with readers. I just wish his editor would also require him to disclose facts about his own advocacy before government bodies.

Here are the sections of the July 11 minutes pertaining to Barnes and his agenda:

-- Bill Barnes discussed the City budget, and the proposed cuts of some $15 million. He emphasized that if some of the people who spoke earlier have their way, the cuts could be more. He added that it would be helpful to send a letter or email to the Board of Supervisors expressing support.

-- Bill Barnes commented on the usage of ADAP in other states, and suggested that the HIPP program has more value for the money.

-- Bill Barnes clarified Title I funding for Bayview had been funded in the past with general funds.

-- Bill Barnes commented that by standardizing the process it makes things easier, but if losing budgetary control then it can be problematic.

(Source: SF CARE Council)

Friday, July 22, 2005

HIV Decline Denialism; Nostalgia For More Gay Deaths

Talk about bad timing. In the same week in which the SF Chronicle heralded decreasing HIV infection rates, and forceful quotes from the city health officials declaring prevention programs as effective, an out-of-touch with statistical reality AIDS expert at the University of California at San Francisco goes against the grain and states in the Bay Times that HIV is up.

"James W. Dilley, MD, executive director of UCSF AIDS Health Project, said the organization serves about 10,000 people a year [...] Dilley spoke about HIV infections rising last year in San Francisco. The infection rate rose fastest among young gay and bisexual men; among this group African American men are at highest risk.

"'A generation has grown up without the warning that pages of obituaries and gaunt faces once provided. For many, the virus appears less deadly—even benign,' he said. 'Yet no one knows the long-term outlook for people on the combination therapies that have provided so much hope. HIV is still a life-threatening virus—and we must fight it.'" [1]

Apparently Dilley reads different data than our leading health official.

This quote ran in the July 20 Chronicle story: "HIV incidence among men who have sex with men in San Francisco appears to be decreasing,'' said city health director Dr. Mitch Katz. [2]

What's going on here? How can two top AIDS experts in San Francisco say such contradictory statements about a vital issue: HIV infection rates?

I have a sneaky suspicion Dilley is simply not up to speed on the latest infection stats and was asked by the Bay Times to mouth off about why he and his group are supposedly so crucial to gay men. Would be nice for this gay publication to print a correction about the false claim of rising HIV infections.

Moving beyond Dilley's ignorance about current stats, what also bothers me, and should be of concern to the gay community's health workers and activists, is Dilley's nostalgia for the good ol' bad days of dozens of weekly obits appearing in the papers. He bemoans the lack of gaunt faces, because without lots of ill gay men, Dilley can't maintain his alarmist message and keep his business going.

But that lack of obits and obvious signs of disease and wasting syndrome are not enough for this doomsayer. His comment about no one knowing how long the anti-AIDS drugs will remain effective contains more than a hope on his part that the drugs fail more people.

Dilley has company from other AIDS Inc executives who express a collective death wish on their gay brothers, or at least a few opportunistic infections, preferably very visible ones.

Remember this quote from Michael Weinstein, the head of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, based in Los Angeles, with affiliates around the country and abroad? "People are in such denial about how serious HIV is. Unfortunately, the best prevention is seeing people die."

Weinstein's offensive remark appeared in an April 3 New York Times story about alleged AIDS apathy among gay men. [3]

And who can forget these cheery sentiments from a colleague of Dilley's and Weinstein's, reported in the SF Chronicle on June 30, 2000?

"AIDS prevention educators said the changing portrait of the epidemic has caused many gay men to let down their guard. 'We don't have the visual reminders of what it can be like to have HIV,' said Steven Gibson, program director for the Stop AIDS project. 'We don't see the wasting syndrome. When was the last time you saw someone with KS lesions in the Castro?'" [4]

I sense that Gibson is only happy when he sees his gay brothers ailing on the streets of San Francisco; Weinstein desires larger numbers of gay deaths; and Dilley is suffering from decline denialism.

Just another day in paradise.

1. SF Bay Times
2. SF Chronicle
3. NY Times story
4. SF Chronicle, 2000

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Roberts' FEC Files; Gave $1,000 to Bush

I have to say, compared to Clement and Hollan Jones, who gave very little to candidates and PACs, President Bush's actual Supreme Court nominee has doled out some bucks, even donating to Bush.

Let's see what the Democrats do with his FEC records, if anything.

NewsMeat Records

John G Roberts , 50
judge, US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit

Republican $: $3,735
PACs $: $7,450
special in

Contributor Candidate or PAC Amount Date

Roberts, John G. Mr. Jr.
Bethesda, MD 20816
Hogan & Hartson/AttorneyBUSH, GEORGE W (R)

Senate - IN



Senate - IL

Senate - IL

Senate - IN


Senate - IN

Senate - IL





Possible SCOTUS Pick Hollan Jones' FEC File

Rumors are swirling on the web that President Bush may not nominate Edith Brown Clement to the Supreme Court tonight.

Instead, gossip has it, Bush could pick Edith Hollan Jones to replace Sandra Day O'Connor on the court, which is why I searched Federal Election Commission records on Jones.

Here are the donations she made, more than twenty years ago, to the GOP of Texas and GOP Congressman Ron Paul.

By the way, a search of campaign disclosure forms at the Texas Ethics Commission web site turned up no donations from either Jones or Clement.


House (TX 14)
SCOTUS Pick Gave to Dubya's Daddy

Looks as though President Bush will deflect attention away from RoveGate tonight when he announces his pick to replace Sandra Day O'Connor on the Supreme Court.

Bloggers and traditional reporters are saying Bush will nominate Judge Edith Clement to the highest court in the land when he addresses the nation in a televised speech.

I've searched available Federal Election Commission files at and only one donation from Clement turns up.

Clement's single contribution to a candidate was in 1987 when she gave $1,000 to Dubya's daddy.

Just a fun factoid to file away as the White House attempts to move the spotlight off its handling of Karl Rove's potentially illegal unmasking of a CIA operative and the battle over the next Supreme Court justice heats up.

Clement, Edith Brown Mrs.

Friday, July 15, 2005

S.F. To Hold HIV Prevention Summit

Supervisor Bevan Dufty
City Hall
San Francisco, CA 94102

Dear Supervisor Dufty:

It pleases me no end that at the Alice B. Toklas Democratic Club meeting on July 11, in response to my question about whether you would keep your pre-election promise to voters to organize and host a summit on HIV prevention programs, you said yes, the summit will happen before 2005 is over.

Now that you have agreed to hold the summit, I'd like to make some suggestions about the agenda for the summit.

As you know, the city and federal agencies spend millions annually on epidemiology tracking HIV, AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases, and I think statistics must be a top priority of the summit.

Frequently, the department of public health's epidemiology clearly shows declines of these infections, yet health officials seem to go out of their way to not call attention to the falling numbers.

We need to address why the health department and its nonprofit HIV prevention partners don't publicize the statistics when they are dropping and demonstrate that prevention messages are working to stop new infections.

If the public and private health officials can spend time and money to shout to the press and gay community when HIV/AIDS/STD are climbing, then the officials should also be compelled to inform everyone of declines.

Right now, all HIV/AIDS/STD reports put out by the city reveal continuing falling numbers of new infections, yet not one word has been said about the declines by the health department and nonprofits. [1]

Actually, something about the declines was reported by the health department's head of HIV prevention, Steven Tierney, at the June meeting of the HIV Prevention Planning Council.

The minutes from that meeting report Tierney said, "Indications are that new epidemiology data will show promising trends indicating the [council's] efforts are succeeding."

The minutes also state, "This news was met with applause." [2]

So only those in attendance or read the minutes know that prevention messages are getting through to at-risk people and are effective, but the larger gay community and press remain ignorant about this wonderful development.

Kind of make me wonder if Tierney, the health department and nonprofits are either suppressing the declines or embarrassed to make the drops widely known.

In any event, please put HIV/AIDS/STD statistics; how they're gathered and counted, what they say about prevention programs, their impact on funding, high on your list of things to address at your HIV prevention summit.

I look forward to working with you in the coming months on making the summit a success that improves our HIV prevention messages and organizations.

Michael Petrelis
San Francisco, CA

1. SF DPH HIV/AIDS/STD reports
2. HPPC minutes , page 6.

Monday, July 11, 2005

HHS Must Audit S.F.'s AIDS Stats

Daniel R. Levinson
Inspector General
Dept. of Health and Human Services
Room 5541 Cohen Building
330 Independence Avenue, S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20201

Re: Audit request of San Francisco's AIDS statistics

Dear Mr. Levinson:

Millions of federal dollars flow to San Francisco thanks to the Ryan White CARE Act, which is administered through the Health Resources and Services Administration for the care and treatment of people with AIDS. The HRSA allocations are primarily based on the AIDS caseload and number of deaths recorded by AIDS epidemiologists at the city's Department of Public Health, but serious questions about the validity of AIDS numbers here must be addressed by a federal investigation by your office.

There are several reasons why I request that you audit San Francisco's AIDS statistics, which I list here.

The executive summary for San Francisco's 2004 AIDS epidemiology report states that the "cumulative total of 29,056 AIDS cases were reported through 2003 last year; the new count of resident-only cases through 2004 is 26,110." [1]

The DPH has reduced the AIDS caseload by almost 11% because it is ending the practice of counting non-residents of the city in the number of AIDS cases diagnosed here.

This reduction raises two important questions. Has San Francisco been receiving a disproportionate amount of HRSA funds, based on DPH's padding of the AIDS caseload? And, will HRSA decrease the city's allocation of Ryan White CARE Act money because of the reduced caseload, and instead shift the dollars to a city where AIDS cases are rising?

The city's 2004 AIDS report shows the following declining figures for AIDS deaths over the past ten years, for which data are available:












To many people, the downward numbers reveal a steadily decreasing rate of AIDS mortality. However, the executive summary says, "The stability we are witnessing in this phase of the epidemic is not good news; 500 new cases and 400 deaths each year translate to considerable morbidity and mortality in our city."

We're witnessing declines, not stability, which is characterized as bad news, and the city has thankfully not seen close to 400 AIDS deaths since 1998, according the DPH data. The rhetorical claims are not matched by the figures.

Without explanation, the cumulative number of AIDS deaths for San Francisco has mysteriously fallen.

The DPH's 2003 annual AIDS report said a total of 19,616 people had died of the disease in the city since the epidemic began. But the 2004 surveillance report lists 17,610 cumulative deaths from AIDS for the city. [3, 4]

Frankly, I've never heard of any local health department lowering its cumulative AIDS death statistics, by nearly 10%, without a full and detailed explanation why.

My biggest fear is that San Francisco's AIDS epidemiologists have been cooking the statistics to artificially raise the numbers in order to win more in federal grants, to the detriment of other cities with more AIDS cases and deaths, not to mention better and more genuine AIDS epidemiology.

I've enclosed a copy of Michelle's Cochrane's new book, "When AIDS Began: San Francisco and the Making of an Epidemic," for your consideration in deciding how to audit the city's AIDS figures. [5]

"When AIDS Began" is a detailed account of how AIDS epidemiology for the city was developed, the political and financial machinations behind the surveillance, the suppression of data showing HIV and AIDS declines over the years stretching back to at least 1990 by DPH, and the deliberate skewing of data to increase government grants to the city's coffers.

After reading the 2004 DPH surveillance data and executive summary, in addition to "When AIDS Began," I believe you, as Inspector General for Health and Human Services, must carry out an audit of San Francisco's AIDS diagnoses and mortality figures to determine how valid and accurate they are, before Congress and HRSA use the statistics in awarding San Francisco federal dollars for AIDS programs here.

In closing, I ask that you immediately launch a federal audit into the ways in which San Francisco counts AIDS cases and deaths, evaluate the honesty and integrity of the epidemiology, and ask if any city officials have knowingly manipulated data for purposes of federal funding streams.

Michael Petrelis

1. SF's 2004 AIDS report , page viii.
2. SF'S 2004 AIDS report , page 62
3. SF'S 2003 AIDS report , page 13
4. SF's 2004 AIDS report , page 16
5. SF Public Library catalogue listing for "When Aids Began"

Sunday, July 10, 2005

JAIDS: Penile Swipe May Halt HIV & STDs

This may eventually be good news for stopping HIV and other STDs. Until I read this abstract, I hadn't thought about wiping the penis before and after anal and vaginal sex to stop infections. In the arsenal of disease prevention tools; penile condoms, spermicidal gels, anal/vaginal condoms, pulling out before cumming, getting testing for infections, we may soon add the penile swipe.

Safety, Acceptability, and Potential Efficacy of a Topical Penile Microbicide Wipe.

Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes.
July 1, 2005.

Taha, Taha E MBBS, PhD *; Kumwenda, Newton PhD *; Mwakomba, Albert MBBS +; Mwenda, Robin MS ++; Kawonga, Harry CO [S]; Gaydos, Charlotte DrPH [//]; Hoover, Donald PhD [P]; Kafulafula, George MBBS, FCOG #

Summary: Innovative, low-cost, and acceptable measures are needed to reduce sexually transmitted infections (STIs) including HIV. Use of a topical microbicide wipe for penile cleaning before and after sex might be effective in preventing STIs. However, evaluation of this simple method has not been done.

Two studies were conducted in Malawi to determine the safety, acceptability, and potential efficacy of a benzalkonium chloride topical penile microbicide wipe.

The first study was a phase 1 dose-escalating clinical trial among low-risk circumcised or uncircumcised HIV-negative men.

The second study was a pilot before-after efficacy study among uncircumcised HIV-negative or -positive men.

In the first study 24 circumcised and 27 uncircumcised men were enrolled.

During the entire study period, 18 adverse events (AEs) were reported, and 3 AEs were confirmed by physical examination.

Acceptability concerns did not increase with dose escalation, and adherence to use of the wipe ranged from 89%-95%.

In the second study, 27 men were enrolled.

Gram stain and culture tests showed significant reductions in frequency of several organisms after use of the wipe, including STI-associated bacteria.

This penile wipe is safe, acceptable, and can decrease the frequency of penile colonization with microorganisms.

The clinical relevance remains to be determined in larger clinical trials.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

SF DPH Cuts AIDS Cases by 11%

Dr. Mitch Katz
Department of Public Health
101 Grove Street
San Francisco, CA 94102

Dear Dr. Katz:

Your latest annual AIDS epidemiology report, for 2004, was posted to the DPH web site last week and I am very concerned about the way in which you've reduced the number of full-blown AIDS cases by almost 11%.

In the "Dear Colleague" letter of the report, the following caveat is given.

"Beginning in 2005, publications of our data were changed to include only persons who were residents of San Francisco at the time they were diagnosed with AIDS. Prior to this change, our reports also included persons who were diagnosed with AIDS at a San Francisco medical facility, but who were residents elsewhere at the time of their diagnosis.

"We have decided to exclude non-San Francisco residents from the data presentations because AIDS case reporting practices result in our having a complete count of San Francisco resident with AIDS, but an incomplete record of non-San Francisco residents with AIDS. In order to provide consistent AIDS surveillance data, our surveillance quarterly and annual reports will include only reports of persons diagnosed with HIV or AIDS who were residents of San Francisco at the time of their diagnosis." [1]

That is quite a shift in counting AIDS stats and I believe a fuller explanation is needed as to why exactly you've implemented the changes in surveillance now, instead of say last year or ten years ago.

The 2004 report's executive summary states the "cumulative total of 29,056 AIDS cases were reported through 2003 last year; the new count of resident-only cases through 2004 is 26,110." [2]

Literally overnight you have cut the AIDS caseload by nearly 11%, raising many questions.

First, why was the city counting diagnoses for those who live elsewhere in the San Francisco surveillance in the first place?

Was the inclusion of the non-residents legal? I will check with lawyers about this question.

While I applaud you now coming clean about who's counted in local AIDS stats, I still must ask why have you never told the public about how our caseload included non-residents?

Considering millions of federal dollars were directed to San Francisco based on the AIDS caseload, were federal officials aware of the padding DPH did to the AIDS numbers?

As you well know, Congress will reauthorize the Ryan White CARE Act this year, which will bring an estimated $29 million to the city based on our AIDS caseload. How does the 11% reduction factor into the reauthorization process and will the city now lose 11% in CARE Act funding because non-residents are no longer counted in the San Francisco AIDS stats?

Other than publishing information and revised downward AIDS stats in the 2004 report, which many reporters and funders and members of the public will never read, how will you spread the word about the 11% reduction?

Let's expand the questions to include matters related to other AIDS stats, along with figures for other sexually transmitted diseases and the surveillance for them.

Are your AIDS mortality stats also inclusive of non-residents? If they are, what is the percentage of San Francisco AIDS deaths for non-residents?

Because California irrationally rejects HIV names reporting, we both know any attempt to gather, evaluate and interpret HIV infections is not easy.

Nevertheless, given all the limitations of tracking new HIV transmission with the Unique Identifier system, have you in the past and are you now including new infections among non-residents? If yes, can you give the percentage of new HIV infections for folks who live outside San Francisco, but are counted in our stats?

Now, regarding syphilis cases and male rectal gonorrhea diagnoses for the city, which overwhelmingly occur among sexually active gay men, are those numbers for only San Francisco residents, or are gay men from other areas included in those stats? Again, if they are, what is their percentage of the total numbers for these STDs?

Given your disclosure on the 11% reduction of AIDS cases, I feel it is my duty to ask friends to be deeply skeptical of any and all HIV/AIDS/STD data from you and the DPH. Your inability to make it know sooner that the city's AIDS stats weren't just for residents of San Francisco raise another import matter.

What else are you keeping from public knowledge and view about how you count all things related to AIDS?

I respectfully request a prompt reply.

Michael Petrelis

1. SF DPH 2004 AIDS report, page vii.
2. SF DPH 2004 AIDS report, page viii.
Gay SF Syphilis Falls 28%; HIV Also Down

On July 1, 2000, in a front page article for the New York Times, chief medical correspondent Lawrence K. Altman wrote about an alleged surge of new HIV infections in San Francisco. [1]

I say alleged for a few reasons; California lacks HIV names reporting, a new antibody detection test not approved by the FDA was used to estimate the HIV rate, and STD statistics were cherry picked by health experts.

Altman wrote: "Syphilis rates have increased in San Francisco and Los Angeles, and gonorrhea rates have increased in Seattle, the health officials said. 'That is what makes [the rising HIV incidence data] important,' Dr. Katz [of the DPH] said. "It is the first report to link new infections to higher unsafe sexual behavior."

What is being claimed by the DPH officials and not challenged by the Times is that syphilis rates basically equal HIV rates for gay men in San Francisco, a scientific hypothesis I never fully accepted as valid.

In any event, for argument's sake, I will accept the alarm of the Times and the San Francisco health department in order to focus attention on new HIV and STD data from America's gay Mecca and model AIDS city.

Examine the latest STD monthly report from the DPH, with the best news first -- syphilis has fallen 28% for the five months of this year compared to the same period in 2004.

Year to date, Jan-May 2004: 280
Year to date, Jan-May 2005: 202

Since similar syphilis stats were used by the DPH in the Times story to proclaim yet another "second wave" of HIV was hitting San Francisco, we must remember how these forces used this city's stats to forecast dire predictions for the entire country.

"The [HIV] rise is deeply troubling because it was seen in San Francisco, one of the principal centers of the AIDS epidemic that was first detected in 1981. Thus, the rise could signal a new wave of infections there and elsewhere, San Francisco health officials said," the Times wrote.

The rates of new HIV and syphilis infections were supposed to be equal, reason for alarm and page one attention.

However, the STD monthly report through the end of May 2000 reveals 58 syphilis cases were reported to the city at that point, which compares to 53 such cases in 1999. This means there was a 9% jump in syphilis infections when the Times wrote it's article. [3]

In my estimation it's peculiar San Francisco health officials have been mute since the latest STD monthly data was released.

I would expect the health department to seize upon the 28% decline of syphilis as hard evidence their controversial STD prevention programs and social marketing campaigns are working, that gay men are loving each other without driving up STD infections.

If the rise of HIV in 2000 was determined in large part because of the syphilis rise, then we need to ask if the serious decline of syphilis so far in 2005 mirrors a fall of HIV.

According to the most recent monthly report, the numbers for HIV antibody positive test results at the city's central STD clinic fell in comparison to last year's. Bear in mind this is _not_ the city's HIV rate, just one major clinic's data.

Year to date, Jan-May 2004: 57
Year to date, Jan-May 2005: 51

Seems to me that's a 10% drop, while not as high as the city's overall syphilis decline, but nothing to sneeze at either.

Okay, now what about the overall HIV rate for San Francisco? Up, down or stable?

The HIV Counseling, Testing and Referral (CTR) reports encompass all federal and city funded testing sites, at clinics and on the street, and tests performed by private doctors.

HIV CTR rate 2001
Number of tests: 23,648
HIV poz #: 736
% poz: 3.1

HIV CTR rate 2002
Number of tests: 19,091
HIV poz #: 699
% poz: 3.7

HIV CTR rate 2003
Number of tests: 20,376
HIV poz #: 735
% poz: 3.5

HIV CTR rate for 2004
Number of tests: 21,973
HIV poz #: 736
% poz: 3.4
[5, 6, 7, 8]

Extreme caution is necessary in looking at these numbers because many of the people tested have previously tested for HIV and may have already been counted, using the shoddy California Unique Identifier system. For data on repeat testers, see page 2 of the CTR reports.

You may recall the Times story of December 16, 2004, about HIV testing on the streets here that reported, "Of 650 testers at the two sites, 40 people were HIV-positive, but 20 had previously tested positive." The Times said those 20 people, repeat testers really, took another HIV antibody test because they were given a $10 voucher for groceries. [9]

However, the four year's of CTR reports on the surface show a fluctuation in annual tests performed, three of the years were remarkably stable for poz test results, the percentage hit a high in 2002 at 3.7 and dropped to 3.4 during 2004.

To get a fuller picture of the STD rates for gay men in San Francisco, we see the following diseases are also down, as reported in the monthly DPH newsletter:

Male rectal gonorrhea
Year to date, Jan-May 2004: 183
Year to date, Jan-May 2005: 179

Male rectal chlamydia
Year to date, Jan-May 2004: 194
Year to date, Jan-May 2005: 181

Adult male shigellosis
Year to date, Jan-May 2004: 44
Year to date, Jan-May 2005: 41
[10, 11, 12]

All these dropping STD rates come amidst an explosion of speed use among a subculture of sexually active gay men and health experts have at times equated using meth with spreading syphilis and HIV.

The speed use epidemic here is so bad the DPH monthly STD newsletter reveals a sharp increase in number of speed-related visits to San Francisco emergency departments.

Speed-related ER visits
Year to date, Jan-May 2004: 311
Year to date, Jan-May 2005: 343

A 10% rise in tweakers seeking ER help, but syphilis, other gay male STDs, including HIV, are not climbing as health experts and the Times have predicted.

I wish someone would explain to me how San Francisco can go through declining HIV and STD infections, while speed use is up and not a word is said by the DPH, AIDS groups, the Times, and other newspapers.


1. NY Times
2. SF DPH report May 2005
3. SF DPH report May 2000
4. SF DPH report
5. CTR 2001
6. CTR 2002
7. CTR 2003
8. Not available on the web. For a copy of the CTR 2004 report, call Steven Tierney at DPH: 415-554-9000.
9. NYT story
10., 11. & 12. SF DPH report
13. SF DPH report