Friday, February 19, 2010

KPIX Vid: UC PWA Expert Won't
Talk Drug-Resistance Study On-Air

If there is one person responsible for properly framing the problems with the UCLA study alleging mini-epidemics of drug-resistant strains of HIV in San Francisco, with dire consequences for Africa, that would be Dr. Grant Colfax, head of SF DPH HIV prevention efforts. I am usually criticizing Colfax, but lately I do nothing but salute him for speaking out about this controversial study. In the KPIX story, you'll hear Colfax again say the findings do not equal the sky falling.

One of the study's co-author is Dr. James Kahn of UCSF, a longtime AIDS doctor and clinician, who should know better than to dump such a study on the local gay and PWA communities and not be prepared for public debate. In a sign of cowardly weakness, that doesn't speak well for him, his colleagues or their research, Kahn refused to go on-camera.

There is a major problem when researchers, faced with mounting gay and PWA criticism, and growing mainstream media attention, hide in their ivory towers. What respectable expect would shriek about drug-resistant HIV "strains in San Francisco pose a great and immediate threat to global public health," then cower in fear at a few queries? Science and public health are ill-served with the shameful, missing-in-action behavior of Sally Blower and Kahn, two of the researchers.

But another real ray of hope, on top of SF DPH and Bay Area Reporter and community criticism, in this dark episode of how not to conduct and present questionable gay/AIDS research in 2010, is the incredible TV news story by Joe Vazquez of KPIX that aired tonight.

Vazquez, in his thoroughness spoke to Colfax and myself, cited the BAR editorial calling for Science magazine to retract the study, made the UCLA/UCSF study understandable to the average viewer, and tried to get co-author Kahn to speak on camera. Kahn refused, and Vazquez used stock footage of him.

The word lame doesn't begin to sum up the awfulness of Blower, Kahn, et al., who threw down their controversial research from the ivory tower, met with serious doubts from a wide spectrum of public health and community leaders in San Francisco, and are too chicken to engage in communication.

Big thanks to Joe Vazquez, for again doing his job well tonight, and committing an act of journalism. Kudos also to KPIX editors for giving the story 4-minutes, an eternity these days in TV news.

Here's the vid of the KPIX story:

(Hat tip for the YouTube vid: NelsonG.)

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