Wednesday, February 17, 2010

SF Supe Dufty: Talks Needed With UCLA
AIDS Drug-Resistance Modeler

In early 2008, when a UCSF study on gay men and drug-resistant staph infections in San Francisco, along with a sensationalistic press release from the UCSF media office, touched a firestorm of controversy and concern, communication with the study's authors was demanded.

To their credit, study co-author Dr. Chip Chambers and LGBT health liaison at UCSF Shane Snowden, along with several people in the public affairs offices of the university, were quite available for public dialogues. The UCSF researchers and others were at town hall meetings, or talking on the phone with concerned activists, or trading emails about the mess created by the 2008 study for gays and people with AIDS.

I say with all honesty that the UCSF folks recognized mistakes had been made, that the communities directed affected, and stigmatized, by the study and press release needed full engagement, and they delivered on promised of open dialogue.

This example of researchers and university press people addressing the deep concerns raised by their work should be emulated by Sally Blower, her research colleagues and the UCLA press officers who all had a hand in creating a troubling study on potential AIDS drug resistance among SF PWAs. Click here and also here for background.

To help bring about a much-needed transparent dialogue with Blower, Bevan Dufty, the Board of Supervisors' member from the Castro district, and his staff sent a letter to her, requesting communication. I applaud Bevan for taking the initiative to get some talks going between the PWA community here, and the folks at UCLA.

Blower should realize, like the UCSF researchers did in 2008, that the San Francisco gay and PWA communities are totally fed up with alarmist studies, and efforts to generate sensationalistic media coverage. We cannot tolerate the dumping of studies and releases on the affected communities, and no communication or accountability from the UCLA researchers.

Now is a good time for Blower to comprehend the negative reactions to her latest doomsday math model, and to respectfully engage with the communities that are the subject of her modeling.

Here is the text of Bevan's great letter:

February 17, 2010

Dr. Sally Blower
Disease Modeling Group
10940 Wilshire Blvd Suite 1450
Los Angeles, CA 90024

Dear Dr. Blower:

I am writing to you today in hopes of opening a dialogue between you and your colleagues and members of the San Francisco LGBT and HIV/AIDS communities.

As you are aware, a press release, “Study predicts HIV drug resistance will surge,” released by UCLA on January 22, 2010, has garnered a great deal of attention from San Franciscans living with HIV/AIDS.

Members of the gay community and the head of the San Francisco Department of Public Health’s HIV prevention programs have expressed dismay to me about your press release.

In San Francisco we have taken the approach of promoting wellness and including in the planning and delivery of HIV prevention and care all members of the communities impacted by HIV. These partnerships based on solid evidence; open, clear communication and shared responsibility have been effective. We in this city and our colleagues and partners in many other cities and states have abandoned strategies which were designed to alarm or frighten community members into specific behaviors.

We approach HIV prevention and care from a health promotion platform. These strategies work to reduce and eliminate stigma and discrimination. I am certain your work is designed to reduce new infections and care for those living with HIV.

I hope you will join us in using strategies which promote health rather than risk increasing fear and stigma. I welcome the opportunity to hear about your work and your approach to that work.

I am hopeful that you will consider joining a dialogue with the San Francisco LGBT and HIV/AIDS communities about these issues. I am happy to begin the discussion via phone or emails, if that makes it easier.

Please don’t hesitate to contact me or my office so that we may be able to begin a dialogue that I hope leads to a better understanding and a level of sensitivity to these issues. I look forward to engaging in a constructive conversation that allows you to better understand the issues of San Franciscans living with HIV/AIDS, while also explaining your study and its potential consequences.

I am available to set up a meeting as soon as possible and ask that you call my office (415-xxx-xxxx) or my cell (415-xxx-xxxx), so that we can begin a dialogue about these critical issues.


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