Sunday, February 28, 2010

NYT: Lethal Drug-Resistant Bug:
Gay Men _Not_ At-Fault

I dreaded reading the Saturday New York Times story on a drug-resistant bug killing people in rising numbers. Surely somewhere the gay man, sexually active or abstinent, would be blamed for either creating this strain of a deadly infection, making it drug-resistant or about to spread from the gay community into the "general population." The dread was for naught.

The Times reported on the bug known as Acinetobacter baumannii:

The germ is one of a category of bacteria that by some estimates are already killing tens of thousands of hospital patients each year. While the organisms do not receive as much attention as the one known as MRSA — for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus — some infectious-disease specialists say they could emerge as a bigger threat. [...]

There was the mandated alarmist quote from an expert:

“In many respects it’s far worse than MRSA,” said Dr. Louis B. Rice, an infectious-disease specialist at the Louis Stokes Cleveland V.A. Medical Center and at Case Western Reserve University. “There are strains out there, and they are becoming more and more common, that are resistant to virtually every antibiotic we have.”

And diseased homosexuals weren't mentioned once. But the bad news just kept coming:

Meanwhile, New York City hospitals, perhaps because of the large numbers of patients they treat, have become the global breeding ground for another drug-resistant Gram-negative germ, Klebsiella pneumoniae.

According to researchers at SUNY Downstate Medical Center, more than 20 percent of the Klebsiella infections in Brooklyn hospitals are now resistant to virtually all modern antibiotics. And those supergerms are now spreading worldwide.

Still no reference to bug-spreading fags. What an unusual story of this kind! How refreshing to have a serious look at a growing public health infection, and the gay man is not at the core of the problem.

This is so unlike reporting in 2008 when UCSF alleged drug-resistant MRSA was flourishing in the gay community and soon to strike out into nice, normal heterosexuals. I wish my snark level about the Times piece and the germs mentioned were lower.

But after months of pushing back on UCLA's questionable study on HIV drug-resistance in San Francisco, and the aforementioned UCSF MRSA mess, on top of decades of mainstream news account pumping out the medical homophobia from universities and other research institutions, snarking is a healthy outlet for ridding myself of part of the stigma heaped upon me by UC and the press.
NIH's $3.9M AIDS Prevention
Video Game Upsets Conservatives

(Just a joystick? No, a potential HIV prevention tool.)

Earlier this month, the Cybercast News Service, a conservative media outfit, ran a long report on its site about the National Institutes of Health awarding Yale university $3.9 million to develop a video game aimed at preventing behaviors among young people that could lead to HIV infection.

News about the grant was touted in September by Yale's p.r. department:

The grant, to be paid out over five years, will fund work by Lynn Fiellin, M.D., assistant professor of medicine at Yale School of Medicine.

Fiellin’s study is designed to develop and test an interactive virtual reality-based video game called “Retro-Warriors” that will teach ethnically diverse adolescents how to make healthier choices. The research goes beyond the use of a game for education and proposes to create a world in which the game players can engage in role-playing to learn to avoid risky behaviors that could lead to HIV infection.

Not sure why the conservatives missed this news in the fall, but their efforts to spark an outcry this month haven't produced traction. The grant has attracted the attention of game news sites.

I can see how conservatives might have problems with almost $4 million going to develop an electronic game for kids, to teach them about facts-of-life like sex and infections.

At the same time, there is much value in reaching young people with messages and education skills, using media platforms that they are engaged with on a daily basis.

There is one thing I'm concerned with, which is mentioned in Yale's project summary:

The primary outcome will be initiation of sexual activity, defined as the initiation of either vaginal or anal intercourse.

What about oral intercourse? Fellatio is not an Italian aria. Well, it can be, depending on the verbal skills of the one doing the sucking, but I happily digress into a real life matter. Are the NIH folks doling out the big bucks, and the smarty-pants game developers/researchers at Yale oblivious to the hard fact of young people engaging in blow jobs?

That missing outcome aside, I hope this project succeeds in finding a new method of delivering an HIV prevention and pro-health message, in the realm of new media used by kids today.
HIV Cherry-Picking by UK Guardian & Pisani?

Across the pond earlier this week, in the pages of the Guardian, journalist and epidemiologist Elizabeth Pisani provoked a debate about an emerging theory to test and treat our way out of the AIDS pandemic. One passage captured my attention, and sent me searching for recent HIV stats.

Let's go over a few key sentences. Pisani wrote:

A few years after antiretrovirals became widely available, new infections among gay men in the UK began to rise.

The slide below, from Britain's Health Protection Agency, shows there indeed has been a troubling rise in new gay HIV diagnoses, which peaked in 2007 and appear to be on the decline.

However, look at the dark purple line, which represents the number of straight people from abroad and their HIV diagnoses. Their stats are much larger than those for gays, but Pisani omits this info. She also exclude mention of the rise in domestic straight diagnoses, seen in the yellow line.

And UK straight HIV figures, unlike the gay or straight foreigners HIV numbers, seem to be on the rise.

More from Pisani:

We've seen the same [rise in gay HIV infections] in Australia, the United States and practically everywhere else we have data.

Here's a recent chart from a collective of Australian public health and private advocacy organizations issued for World AIDS Day:

Looks to me like HIV infections in Australia peaked in the 1987, with a slight increase starting in 2001, and maybe going down in 2007. Yet Pisani says not a thing about the highest figures showing up two decades ago.

And what about the United States and its HIV transmission rate, where gay men comprise the majority of HIV infections? The chart below is from the Centers for Disease Control and shows a serious drop in transmissions, which the CDC heralded thus -- Dramatic Declines Indicate Success in U.S. HIV Prevention.

Here's the good news from the CDC that accompanied the chart:

Since the peak level of new infections in the mid-1980s, just prior to the introduction of HIV testing, the transmission rate has declined by approximately 89 percent [...] Over the last decade, as prevention efforts have been expanded and improved treatments for HIV became available, the transmission rate has declined by 33 percent [...]

I am troubled that Pisani singled out gay HIV stats in the UK, while totally ignoring the larger stats for straight foreigners and the surge in stats for domestic native-born straights. Why isolate out only the gay numbers?

And why does Pisani not report that for Australia and the U.S., overall HIV infections and transmissions, of which gay men make up the bulk of the caseload, hit a high long ago?

Troubling as her presentation of selective stats is, it is also problematic what she says here:

One reason for [increases in HIV] is that gay men use condoms less now than they did when HIV = Aids = a horrible death. Now, though, HIV = a pill every day. Boring, but not the end of the world, unless you're the taxpayer ­picking up the tab for it or the epidemiologist worrying that drug-resistant strains of HIV will reignite Aids.

Sorry, but I can't detect an ounce of any happiness that gay are not dying quickly and horribly as in the days before AIDS cocktails. A great medical advance, deflecting opportunistic infections and prolonging life, for Pisani, boils down to a big bore.

Maybe she's implying that for gay men living with AIDS, who are staying alive and leading productive lives, that it's boring for us. Or that we don't give a damn about taxpayers, which, in case she hasn't heard includes gays and people with AIDS, paying for our healthcare needs.

Does Pisani bemoan taxpayers footing the bill for diabetics who need insulin or people at-risk of heart attacks getting government funded cholesterol lowering drugs?

Sure, I'll cut Pisani a bit of slack here and offer up that perhaps she's really not expressing nostalgia for the bad old "fags dying like flies" days before protease inhibitors. She doesn't want a return to daily funerals for gay men dead of AIDS.

But what I hear in her words regarding a lot fewer quick and horrible deaths, is something I've heard too often from public health and AIDS Inc folks in the US. And that is a none-too-subliminal desire for the old times, when fear stalked the sexually active gay male community, and effective treatments didn't exist.

I wish Pisani and others would stop blaming gay men for being human, with the same sexual desires as straights, and give us the credit we deserve to all the beneficial things the gay community has done to combat AIDS over nearly three decades.

On a personal note, let me say I like Pisani and spent a short amount of time with her when she passed through San Francisco in 2008, promoting her book "The Wisdom of Whores." What impressed me was her grasp of many HIV and gay issues specific to this city. For a smarty-pants who doesn't live here, she sure had a lot of knowledge about local stats, programs and some of the key players.

I don't believe she is homophobic, but she may suffer from the public health officials' syndrome that doesn't allow for any praise of good efforts made by gays to control HIV. Over the years, I've heard from too many experts who only know how to wag a finger of shame at gays and others at-risk of HIV, while never being able to offer a pat on the back.

Would it kill Pisani and her colleagues to once in a while find reason to praise gay men and our contributions to battling AIDS across the planet? We might listen more to what she and colleagues have to say, if they were more balanced in praising and, when necessary, offering up constructive criticism.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Jamaican Hate Singer:
'People Should
Hear' His Message

One of the top homo-hating singers from Jamaica, Sizzla, gave an interview with the Sunday Mail in Zimbabwe on the eve of a concert in the African country. The matter of his views on gays came up, and he again showed his hatred this weekend:

Q: I understand you were made to sign some documents that forbid you from singing anti-gay songs when you are in Europe. What is your position on gay relationships?

A: The preachings and teachings of the Most High say that it is not right for a man to be with another man or a woman with another woman. All of us wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the union of a man and woman. Family is a basic unit in society.

I support the royal family set-up of a king and a queen.

I did not sign any papers, it is just an agreement I have with certain promoters — it is their system. I cannot stop singing those songs because there is a message in those songs which people should hear.

The folks at OutRage! have tracked his homophobic lyrics, some of which were posted on the UK Gay News site when Sizzla was to perform over in Birmingham in 2004:

Lyrics in Jamaican patios, with the standard English translation underneath in brackets [ ].

Sizzla - Pump Up

Step up inna front line [Step up to the front line]
fire fi di man dem weh go ride man behind [burn the men who have sex with men from behind]
Shot battybwoy, my big gun boom [Shoot queers, my big gun goes boom]

Sizzla – Boom Boom

Boom boom! Batty boy them fi dead [Boom boom (as in gunshots) Queers must be killed]

So Sizzla thinks the messages of his songs are something he can't stop singing and that folks should hear his message, one that calls for bashing and killing gays? This performer should be challenged at every opportunity to end his campaign of hatred and murder music against gay people.
UCLA HIV Modeler in '05:
'Threatening Students, Harassing Faculty'?

Sally Blower, the UCLA mathematician at the center of a continuing two-month controversy over her dubious study alleging drug-resistant HIV strains in San Francisco, has quite a stormy and tempestuous history. Much of it is only now coming to light, as gay and AIDS activists demand accountability from her and UCLA.

In the April 1, 2005, edition of Science magazine, Blower was the subject of an article detailing some of her troubles at the university. Science reported:

[Blower was accused] of threatening students and harassing faculty, according to documents supplied [by her and her husband, UCLA geneticist Nelson Freimer]. Blower, who left the University of California, San Francisco, 5 years ago with Freimer after accusing the university of gender discrimination, says the charges are false. [...]

The charges are only the latest storm surrounding Blower. On 12 November 2004, the dean of the UCLA School of Medicine, Gerald Levey, served Blower notice that she was barred from entering the biomathematics administrative offices pending resolution of charges filed in June. The November letter accused Blower of causing hives and increased blood pressure in two department administrators because she refused to leave their offices until security was summoned.

No word on whether that was drug-resistant hives. Heh. Blower denied these and other allegations of serious misconduct, and Science included quotes from several of her defenders at UCLA. She did confess to some bad behavior:

Blower does admit to sending "rude e-mails" to members of her department but says she wouldn't have done so if they had responded to her inquiries for financial information and for room scheduling, so she could hold classes.

That's interesting, because she has not responded to inquiries from myself and gay political artist and health advocate Clinton Fein, for information about her latest questionable HIV math model.

Science also reports some of the factors that contributed to her gaining employment with UCLA. Apparently it wasn't her credentials alone that secured her a position:

Blower joined the biomathematics department in 2000 after she and her husband struck a deal with UCLA. The university was aggressively recruiting Freimer, who said he would come only if his wife was also offered a tenured position.

Because of confidentiality rules, the university was unable to present its side of the controversies and charges to Science. A few days after that article was printed, the UCLA Daily Bruin newspaper shed more light on other problems Blower was facing:

A comprehensive document that cited the charges against her first surfaced in June 2004, Blower said, adding she was asked to submit a written response in rebuttal within 10 days.

Blower said she has filed countercharges against Meyer, William Friedman, an associate dean of the School of Medicine, and Elliot Landaw, the chairman of the biomathematics department. She declined to discuss the specifics of the charges, but said they were filed because she felt she was not included in the department’s graduate program and was being ignored altogether.

So how was all this resolved? It was not until October 2006, more than a year after Science first reported on the troubles, that Blower and UCLA reached a settlement. A terse statement from the university press office summed up the resolution, emphasis mine:

Professor Blower acknowledges that over the course of several years her behavior was at times inappropriate, causing harm to her colleagues and discord in her department, and that her disparaging statements about the Department of Biomathematics, its members and students, and the University were unwarranted.

Professor Blower further acknowledges that she has not been the subject of gender discrimination, retaliation, harassment or improper exclusion from departmental activities.

Based on these acknowledgements, as well as on Professor Blower's separation from the Department of Biomathematics, and other personal factors, Professor Blower and the university have resolved the dispute and have agreed to make no further public statements.

What a pity that details of the resolution are shrouded in silence and secrecy. And those Blower-created problems from 2004 - 2006 at UCLA were hardly her sole troubles within the UC system. She also had sour relations with colleagues in 2000 at UCSF. One of the UCSF professors who battled with her, laid out his side of a controversy involving lab space in a public email:

Shortly after the letter was sent, Dr. Blower failed to show up at a scheduled meeting with me to discuss the situation and what her space requirements would be. She adamantly refused to move out of the loaned space or to consider alternative space. In short, she did not contribute to constructive efforts at solving the problem at hand.

That last part, about her being uncooperative in finding solutions in 2000, is the same egotistical dynamic I am seeing in 2010. Blower has done nothing to respectfully engage the gay and AIDS communities of San Francisco, to solve the stigmatizing controversy whipped up by her confusing drug-resistant HIV strain allegations dumped on us in January.

Make no mistake about it. Sally Blower is an irresponsible and deeply unethical researcher, who still owes the city of San Francisco an open discussion about her newest confusing AIDS math model.

Friday, February 26, 2010

White House: 11 Visits by HRC's Solmonese

Back in October, when the White House released the first batch of visitor logs that had been requested by many through FOIA, I looked for info on visits by Joe Solmonese, head of the Human Rights Campaign. None showed up, and I said to expect his name to appear in future logs.

To ensure the White House released any logs on Solmonese, I filed a FOIA request for them. Today, this notice came my way:

Thank you for submitting a look back request for White House visitor records. Today, the White House posted nearly 55,000 visitor records which include any records that were responsive to your request. You can see the blog post and review the records here.

Norm Eisen
Special Counsel to the President for Ethics and Government Reform

Nice to get such a response and to find that Solmonese has been to the White House 11 times, and on one day he went twice.

I don't know that I would characterize any of his visits in the presence of the President as opportunities were Solmonese was able to speak directly with Obama. On the other hand, his meeting with Jim Messina, deputy chief of staff, on November 11 as the meeting where Solmonese got the closest to the President's ear.

Many of the events he attended were packed with dozens to hundreds of people, while only 3 meetings involved only 2-3 people. Those three meetings pique my curiosity the most, and I believeSolmonese had a duty to give the gay community some transparency on what took place at them.

If America's top gay political leader is at the White House for a one-on-one meeting with the deputy chief of staff, I want a report back to the community about it.

That being said, I love seeing so much sunshine emanating from the White House. Between FOIA requests filed by citizens and the media for visitor logs, and the Obama administration's commitment to regularly release the logs on the web for public inspection, open government proudly marches on.

Here's the key info on Solmonese's White House visits:

Glossary of abbreviations: POTUS = President of the US, WH = White House, WW = West Wing, SCOTUS = Supreme Court of the US.

Visitee: POTUS
Location: WH
Total # of people: 331
Date: 2009-06-29

Visitee: POTUS
Location: WH
Description: [blank]
Total # of people: 106
Date: 2009-03-05

Visitee: POTUS
Location: WH
Total # of people: 31
Date: 2009-02-18

Visitee: POTUS
Location: WH
Description: MEETING
Total # of people: 59
Date: 2009-02-23

Location: OEOB
Room: 450
Total # of people: 131
Date: 2009-04-07

Location: WH
Room: WW
Description: [blank]
Total # of people: 3
Date: 2009-05-04

Visitee: POTUS
Location: WH
Total # of people: 136
Date: 2009-05-26

Location: OEOB
Room: 105
Description: [blank]
Total # of people: 2
Date: 2009-11-05

Location: WH
Room: WW
Description: [blank]
Total # of people: 2
Date: 2009-11-11

Visitee: POTUS
Location: WH
Description: [blank]
Total # of people: 132
Date: 2009-10-28

Visitee: POTUS
Location: WH
Total # of people: 190
Date: 2009-10-28

FOIA: FBI's File on Dan White,
Harvey Milk's Assassin

Soon after I blogged last week about filing a Freedom of Information Act request with the FBI, for copies of any records on slain gay leader Harvey Milk, a friend asked about the federal agency's file on his assassin Dan White (above, left). He mentioned a reference to such a file in Randy Shilts' book "The Mayor of Castro Street."

Here is the relevant passage:

According to documents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the FBI had started a probe into Dan White's connections with [a major San Francisco real estate developer] to see if the concession [for tourists at a pier], was a payoff for political favors. Before the probe turned up any substantive information, however, Dan White had been charged with far more serious crimes and the FBI files noted that the investigation "should not be discussed outside the bureau."

Needless to say, that piqued my curiosity, so I used the Get Grandpa's FBI File site to generate a FOIA request. My request has been sent to the field office here, and headquarters in Washington. Since we know from Shilts' book that the FBI has a record on White, it shouldn't take a long time to locate and release it.

I like the Get Grandpa's FBI File letter-generating site, because it's so quick and easy to use, to create a FOIA request for records on any deceased person. Why not do your part for American sunshine and file a request?

I've Googled for another reference to the White file, or maybe even the actual records posted somewhere on the web, but located nothing relevant. As soon as I hear back from the feds, I'll share their response, and eventually hope to make any FBI files on Milk, and the known file on White, available on the web.

Let the sunshine in!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

UCLA's SF PWA Drug-Resistance
Forum Held in . . . NYC?

The more I learn about UCLA mathematician Sally Blower, the more I see a highly irresponsible, unethical and immoral researcher.

Blower unleashed her latest stigmatizing math model targeting gays and people with AIDS in San Francisco in January, and she simply hasn't had the inclination or time to deal with the continuing fallout from her study.

Despite loud pleas from gay PWAs, diplomatic appeals from Supervisor Bevan Dufty, constant criticism from Dr. Grant Colfax at SF DPH, an damning editorial in the Bay Area Reporter, a skeptical 4-minute KPIX-TV news story, an article at countering her claims of drug-resistance with decade-plus study on dramatically decreasing resistant HIV strains, Blower has maintained a vow of silence.

But earlier this month, on the same night a gay wellness town hall forum was held at the SF gay community center, at which Colfax spoke of concerns with Blower's research and its potential influence of harm, where was Blower?

Clear across the continent:

Feb 10, 2010

Columbia University Epidemiology Grand Rounds (CUEGR)

Evolution, Complex Networks, and Drug Resistance to HIV

Sponsor: Department of Epidemiology
Speakers: Sally Blower, Ph.D., University of California, Los Angeles, David Geffen School of Medicine

Hey, I'm glad everyone in the New York City area had the chance to speak with her over the course of a 90-minute lecture, about her theories on drug-resistance to HIV in SF.

Read again the offensive and sensationalistic UCLA press release, heralding the latest PWA bashing by Blower and colleagues. You'll find the key words -- evolution, complex networks, HIV drug resistance -- in the release. There's also the requisite "blame gay sex" quote UCLA and UCSF press officers love to put in their propaganda:

The researchers' model was able to explain this increase, said Justin T. Okano, the other co-first author on the study and a research associate in Blower's group.

"Our model showed that what is going on in San Francisco is very complicated — but in a nutshell, it is due to the bug, the drugs and sex," he said.

The situation we are faced with, is thus. UCLA experts allegedly diagnosed a public health threat in SF, potentially jeopardizing the health of thousands of PWAs here, there is widespread public outcry for transparency and communication from the grassroots, over the course of month's time, and they can't make even a small effort to ameliorate the damage they have caused here, and speak with us in SF.

But Blower had the time and resources to jet off to Manhattan to tawk to New Yawkers, about the HIV mini-epidemics in SF.

Blower/UCLA = Irresponsible, Unethical, Immoral.
Study: HIV Math Models
Must Be 'Carefully Examined'

If UCLA math modeler Sally Blower were a responsible researcher, one who respectfully engages the communities affected by her studies, she would be having a public conversation with her critics. She isn't on both accounts.

I'd like to have the opportunity to ask her why she thinks other HIV math modelers should have their work "carefully examined," and why their models must be "transparent enough to permit policy makers to understand them." She's demanding something she herself hasn't delivered.

In a 7-page October 29, 2009, study debunking and criticizing a World Health Organization math model created by Dr. Ruben Granich, proposing widespread HIV testing and treatment could eliminate AIDS in the next decade, Blower and a colleague advance some surprising conclusions and recommendations.

Blower said, on page 6, emphases mine:

We conclude that the model developed by Granich et al., when used with realistic parameter values, does not show that HIV elimination is (theoretically) possible. We recommend that any modeling results that are used as a foundation for health policy decisions should always be carefully examined. [...]

In addition, assumptions that are made to construct health policy models should be made transparent enough to permit policy makers to understand them.

Modeling results should always be interpreted with caution. We recommend that models should never be used as the sole basis for making health policy decisions; many other, often more important factors that are not included in the modeling framework, need to be considered.

Well, since January, with Dr. Grant Colfax of SF DPH's HIV prevention division, we in San Francisco have been carefully examining Blower's dubious math model on alleged mini-epidemics of HIV strains resistant to cocktails.

She has steadfastly turned up her nose when asked for further discussion. Blower has also virulently resisted efforts by public policy makers, to make her convoluted model transparent and understandable.

When will Blower follow the advice she hands out to rival math modelers working on AIDS? Transparency and engagement: Two items missing from Blower's resume.
Strub: UN HIV Stigma Survey
Needs PWA Voices

Lately I've been consumed with addressing the reinforcement of stigma against people with AIDS, brought about by a recent math model created by ivory tower researchers.

UCLA and UCSF scientists generated much controversy with allegations that PWAs in San Francisco, with the assistance of doctors and caregivers, had created mini-epidemics of drug-resistant strains of HIV.

The researchers intimated complacency from PWAs, and that we needed our cages rattled. Projecting the notion that PWAs were unconcerned by the alleged resistant strains, stigmatized us as selfish Typhoid Marys threatening global public health.

One way to fight back against such institutional stigmatization by researchers and others, came my way this week from my friend Sean Strub. He's surviving and thriving as a person living with HIV, with a long track record in AIDS advocacy on many fronts.

Sean's asking people to take some time and answer a few questions, give a few comments and suggestions, and help the United Nations address AIDS stigma and discrimination. I've done as he asked, and hope my answers and suggestions bring some change.

As important, was getting a few complaints off my chest about AIDS stigma that I see in California. It was productive to take some of my anger over UCLA/UCSF and share it with the UN folks working on AIDS. Surely you can find you own reasons, regardless of your HIV status, to take the survey. It will be of benefit to PWAs worldwide.

Here's Sean's message, followed by a note from the UN representative soliciting participation, and links to the survey in six languages:

I am forwarding this survey to you because, as you know, many of us have been working on trying to integrate more people with HIV in HIV/AIDS policy-making and delivery of services.

Over the years, the voices of those who have the diseases have too-often receded to the background, with terrible consequences for the epidemic.

Any person with HIV and anyone working in some capacity with the epidemic is eligible and encouraged to complete this survey. It takes a few minutes, but it is something meaningful you can do to help advance the issues that are important to us.

I know that every survey is read and counted and, ultimately will have an influence on the final report. Their report could have far-reaching consequences, which is why it is so important that you take a few minutes to complete the survey.

This is the note from the UN representative, with all of the links to the survey in various languages:

Each year, the NGO Delegation to the UNAIDS governing body (called the Programme Coordinating Board or PCB) submits a report to the Board. This is an important opportunity for us to present the unique perspectives of civil society on the developments and issues around the AIDS pandemic.

This year, we anticipate that the June 2010 board meeting will include agenda items such as non-discrimination; men who have sex with men (MSM); and a thematic focus on sexual and reproductive health services linked to HIV.

The Survey is currently also available in Chinese, Portuguese, Spanish, Russian and French. It will soon be made available in Thai, Burmese, Swahili and Arabic. The deadline is March 15, 2010.

Link to English Survey
Link to Portuguese Survey
Link to Russian Survey
Link to Spanish Survey
Link to French Survey
Link to Chinese Survey

Feel free to distribute to your networks.

Evan Collins
evanjcollins (at) gmail (dot) com
North American Delegate,

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Gay Comments Needed
at State Dept Blog

The U.S. State Department needs to hear some pro-gay messages about including gays and men who have sex with men in the Global Health Initiative and PEPFAR campaign, to fight HIV/AIDS globally.

Yesterday I blogged about a recent Dip Note blog post by Dr. Eric Goosby, our top diplomat for AIDS matters, and I also posted a gay-specific comment for all to read. Goosby and the department omitted any mention about gay men. Not a healthy sign for us.Such invisibility bodes ill for addressing gays and HIV issues around the world.

More pro-gay messages are needed today at the State Department blog post. While the official deadline for public comment on the Global Health Initiative, which encompasses PEPFAR, passed yesterday, it is still necessary to use the comment function at Goosby's post to send a gay-specific to him and the department.

Please take a few minutes to visit the Dip Note entry, and leave a good gay comment for our diplomatic corps to read. The fight for gay visibility at the State Department and through PEPFAR is a constant one. Do your part in this fight. Thanks.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Iranian Gay Night of Comedy in SF

Say, did you hear the one about the gay Iranians staging a fun-filled evening of laughter, while their homeland is in the throes of democracy-building and government bullying?

You will on March 12, if you get tickets to this event:

San Francisco's Castro district, the world's best-known gay neighborhood, will be making history again. For the first time ever, Iranian-American comedians will come together in one special night to tackle the subject of homosexuality and Iranians. is proud to present Mehran Khaghani, Tissa Hami, Amir Malekpour and Max Amini, four of the funniest and accomplished comedians, at Cafe du Nord's Swedish American Hall on Friday, March 12th. Gate opens at 7 pm.

I hope the comics don't do anything dangerous, like out the Iranian president. If they did, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, being gay and guilty of sodomy, would have to hang himself.

Poor taste, I know, given the activism I've engaged in over the hanging of two gay teenagers in Mashad, Iran, in 2005, but if I can't make a feeble attempt at political humor, who can.

For real gay Iranian political humor, I intend to catch this show next month. See you there.

Gay Town Halls
Omitted from HUD Site?

[UPDATE: HUD has amended the states' pages.]

The Housing and Urban Development agency is soon holding three gay town halls in Chicago, New York and San Francisco. The HUD release about the SF town hit my in-box this morning, and when I went looking for it on the HUD site, I couldn't find it.

I spoke with Brian Sullivan at HUD's press office to explain it's nice to hold the meetings, and send out a release, but it was necessary to also post the release on their own site. After some arguing from him, he agreed to my request to have the state pages of their site updated with the gay town hall info.

Michael, look for our advisory to our forthcoming LGBT town hall meetings to be posted on our California, Illinois, and New York pages. In addition, we plan to promote through Facebook and Twitter. Thanks for pushing us in the right direction!

As I write this at 1 pm PST, HUD's page for California does not have the announcement. Same goes for the Illinois page. Only the New York page had the released, in PDF format, available for public inspection.

Why does it take a blogger to point the Obama administration in the right direction, about basic promotion on the HUD site for gay-related events? How could they even think of excluding the info -- gays, really -- on the town halls?

Seeing the omissions at HUD and over at the State Department blog regarding Obama's global HIV plans today, I detect a pattern. We're going to be casually made invisible in programs and media promotions.

If the Obama administration wants to send a message of keeping the gays invisible unless they get pushy and act up, they're succeeding very well.

All this aside for a moment, I still want to point out that at least HUD is staging three gay town halls. That is three more than the Human Rights Campaign will hold for the community.

State Dept Blog:
Gays Omitted from Obama HIV Plan

Dr. Eric Goosby (above), America's AIDS czar to the world, on Friday made a post to the State Department's blog, the Dip Note, about two crucial components for improving global public health. Goosby, long active with U.S. gay and AIDS service and advocacy orgs, who was last employed by the very gay San Francisco AIDS Foundation's affiliate org, the Pangaea Global AIDS Foundation, omitted men who have sex with men from his post:

Earlier this month, the Obama Administration revealed an important new piece of its foreign policy agenda: a consultation document on the strategy for the Global Health Initiative (GHI). This document outlines the U.S. Government's operation plan for the GHI, emphasizing integration of programming, implementation of sustainable efforts, efficient approaches with positive results and collaboration among partners.

As described in the consultation document, the GHI will support partner countries in their efforts to improve the health of their people, with a particular focus on improving the health of women and children. As a cornerstone of the GHI, U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) is a critical piece of this initiative. [...]

If Goosby, the State Department and the Obama administration weren't afraid of addressing the very real needs of gay men at-risk of contracting or living with HIV through PEPFAR, this is the section of the post where we should have been included:

The GHI prioritizes a woman- and girl-centered approach. Over the long term, improving the health of women acts as a positive multiplier, benefiting not only the health but the social and economic development of future generations. PEPFAR also embraces this approach in our strategy, recognizing the disproportionate impact of HIV on women and the centrality of women to the health of their families and communities. [...]

Let us all praise the U.S. emphasis on women and girls in the GHI and PEPFAR principles and programs. Their needs have not been adequately addressed ever, on all health-related matters, not just HIV/AIDS.

But why can't Goosby and the State Department also show some damn concern about gay men and HIV? Given the past year's turmoil and political harassment for gays in Uganda, Kenya and Malawi, where PEPFAR dollars flows, and gay men living with AIDS are doubly-stigmatized, we really need these U.S. officials giving visibility to gays.

Adding insult to injury, the PEPFAR consultation document that Goosby thinks is so wonderful, and will be the guiding force to the program, fails to mention gays or men who have sex with men once.

The outrageous invisibility created by the Dip Note blog post and the PEPFAR document greatly strengthen the stigma already faced by gay men and gays living with AIDS. If Goosby and the State Department are too chicken to say something, _anything_, about gay men and HIV in 2010, we have a clear example of a problem in need of addressing.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

NYT Names Gay Man as National Editor

Is the culture war in America regarding gay men over, or just in a lull?

I would expect some skirmishing from right-wing pundits and other cultural warriors about one of the world's most influential newspapers, the New York Times, appointing out gay man and assistant editor Richard L. Berke (above), to become the national editor next month.

In the same vein, so far, gay cultural war orgs -- HRC, GLAAD, NGLTF -- have been as quiet as their conservative counterparts.

So far, Googling news sites, blogs and the web, turns up nothing from either liberals or conservatives about this former reporter, who just happens to be gay, ascending to the national desk's editor's chair. Even the comments at the Times' Media Decoder blog omit anything about his gay identity.

If there's anything out there about this development, send me the link, and I'll amend this post.

The Times made the announcement on Friday, and a story about the personnel changes appeared in the Saturday A-section of the national dead-tree edition, and shared a bio sketch on the new national editor:

Mr. Berke has covered Congress, the White House and four presidential campaigns for The Times. He was the national political correspondent for more than a decade and the Washington editor for three years before moving to New York in 2005.

A graduate of the University of Michigan and Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, Mr. Berke joined The Times in 1986, after working as a reporter at The Baltimore Evening Sun, The Minneapolis Tribune and The Los Angeles Herald Examiner.

No mention was made about him being gay, which is a good thing these days. I wouldn't expect the Times to tell readers about a staffer's race or gender, when such personal characteristics have no bearing on his ability to do the job he's been assigned. But I would expect pundits and advocacy orgs to weigh in with an opinion or two.

Berke begins his new duties on March 22, and I, speaking as both a reader and an NYT shareholder who owns a single share, expect there will no changes in how the paper covers all of the news, including coverage of LGBT people.

On the other hand, you can bet lots of queens will soon be calling the paper the Gay Lady!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

UCLA, The Vatican: African PWA
Drug-Resistance From 'Stock-Outs'

A reader tipped me off to a 2008 UCLA study carried out by Sally Blower, that was paid for by the Vatican. UCLA said the "paper was commissioned for the 34th edition of Nuntium by Bishop Rino Fisichella, Rector of the Pontifical Lateran University, Auxiliary of Rome, Pontifical Lateran University, The Vatican." Sounds like the Pope was one of Blower's bosses at one time.

I wasn't the least bit surprised the stigmatizing mathematician was a hired gun for one of the most homophobic, misogynistic institutional menaces to sane and effective global public health.

Some of Blower's findings for the Vatican are widely known and not new:

There are many other problems in allocating a scarce supply of drugs that have ethical and epidemiological consequences. For example, a constant supply of drugs over many years will need to be provided to each HIV-infected individual in order to sustain the benefits of ARV in increasing life expectancy.

But there was one startling conclusion that stood out, especially in light of a solid month of challenges to Blower's math model allegedly showing HIV strains impervious to drugs in San Francisco's gay community and the dire consequences our city's homosexuals are wreaking on Africa's people with AIDS.

What does Blower claim is the root of drug-resistance for PWAs across Africa? Men who have sex with men in Gay Mecca, or political moves to reopen bathhouses, maybe our supposed ways of cavalierly spreading tough-to-fight strains of the virus? No, nothing like that:

Drug stock-outs will result in treatment interruptions that will increase treatment failure rates and the development of drug-resistant strains of HIV.

What are drug stock-outs? When pharmacies and clinics run out of medicines, and none are available for distribution to people living with HIV and other diseases, that is a drug stock-out.

Look again at Blower's conclusion for what will cause the strains. It's not just that she doesn't place blame on the SF gay community, or even the drugs themselves. Blower posits that the bigger factor that will drive resistance is an unsteady, interrupted flow of AIDS cocktails.

Even though Blower's research for the Vatican is two-years old, at the time it was written, she had almost a decade of math models on potential and actual drug-resistance in San Francisco under her belt. Yet, none of that damn modeling was cited in her Vatican study.

If, as Blower has claimed, San Francisco's status as the canary in the world's public health mine, and our gay sexual and HIV-treatment behaviors here have global implications, the Vatican study would have been a good place to make the argument validating such claims. Maybe I should count my blessings that Blower, UCLA and the Vatican omitted San Francisco's gay PWAs.
Study: SF PWA Drug-Resistance =
'Minor Public Health Problem'

We are well aware that a broad array of public health officials, media outlets and bloggers, gays and people with AIDS are raising serious questions about the Sally Blower of UCLA and James Kahn of UCSF math model study, alleging mini-epidemics of drug-resistant HIV strains.

Of particular concern is the last sentence of the study that was published in Science last month:

"Consequently, currently circulating [AIDS drug]-resistant strains in San Francisco pose a great and immediate threat to global public health."

And who exactly are the terrible people responsible for this threat to human life on the planet as we know now it? The same old gay boogeymen usually trotted out by homophobes who use homo-sex to make claims of civilization on the brink of extinction.

Blower and Kahn make clear
who the guilty people are behind this immediate threat:

"We calibrated and parameterized the model to represent the HIV epidemic in San Francisco in the community of men who have sex with men (MSM), where levels of [AIDS drug resistance] are already high."

But a 2003 report in AIDScience didn't predict high rates of drug resistance for San Francisco PWAs. Indeed, the researchers predicted the exact opposite, emphases mine:

Both the incidence of resistance (number of cases of transmitted resistance per year) and the prevalence of resistance have been predicted for San Francisco. Surprisingly, it has been predicted that, even with a very high usage of [AIDS drugs] transmitted resistance will initially increase and then fairly quickly stabilize at a relatively low level. These modeling predictions for transmitted resistance have been compared with recently collected empirical data in San Francisco and have been shown to be correct.

Guess who one of the co-authors is. None other than Blower. One of her key citations backing up her 2003 claims, is a study presented in Nature Medicine in 2001, which made the following remarkable statements:

[1] In contrast, we calculate that transmission of resistance is currently low, and predict it will remain low.

[2] We show that the epidemic of resistance is being generated mainly by the conversion of drug-sensitive cases to drug-resistant cases, and not by the transmission of resistant strains.

[3] We also show that transmission of resistant strains has not increased the overall number of new HIV infections.

[4] Our results indicate that transmission of resistant strains is, and will remain, a relatively minor public health problem.

You don't need three guesses to learn who two of the co-authors are. Yep, Blower and Kahn, again. Isn't great how Blower cites her previous work? So much for independent verification. I shouldn't really complain that Blower cites Blower, after all, because of this habit, I've learned that earlier crystal ball predictions from Madame Sally are at serious odds with her 2010 claim roiling San Francisco. But I digress.

Let's go over the statements, one by one. The first recognizes the good news about resistance back in 2001. Second statement about use of AIDS drugs had lead to resistance, not unsafe sexual practices of gay PWAs. This says much about the responsible behaviors of gay men.

Third statement is good news, but confusing. Who exactly was alleging that resistance would potentially equal more transmission in general of HIV?

Finally, the fourth statement and prediction has none of the alarmist and doomsday tone of Blower and Kahn's 2010 apocalyptic dangers facing the world because of gay/PWA drug resistance in San Francisco.

How the hell did we go from "a relatively minor public health problem," to a "great and immediate threat to global public health" in nine years? Sure, it's possible such a grave shift could occur, but the researchers have not addresses their apparent contradictions. Were the 2001 and 2003 allegations by Blower, Kahn, et al., wrong? Hard to say.

These, and a host of other legitimate questions need to be addressed by the UCLA and UCSF researchers. Wish I knew what it will take to force Blower and Kahn to abandon their stonewalling and silence. Communication between AIDS experts and PWAs and gays is required for sane public health policies.

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.)
KPIX Story on UC Study Airs Tonite;
Gay Artist Demands Apology

Be sure to tune in to the 5 pm and 6 pm broadcasts of the news on KPIX today. One of their most thorough reporters for local gay and AIDS stories, Joe Vazquez, will be reporting on the controversial UCLA study that alleges mini-epidemics of AIDS drug resistance in San Francisco.

The researchers, who created a math model that may be as accurate as a crystal ball, cannot be happy that more than a month after they first used sensationalistic language in a UCLA press office news release, so many people in public health in San Francisco are questioning the research.

I can't wait to see how the researchers respond to Vazquez's and his questions. Let's hope KPIX posts the TV story to their web site.

In related news, international political artist Clinton Fein, who's also a friend, sent a letter to UCLA researchers and their press officers yesterday, asking for an apology. Most unfortunately, UCLA remains committed to stonewalling and silence, and has not replied to Clinton. Here is the text of his letter:

Dear Mr.Tate, Mr. Rivero, Ms. Blower, Mr. Kahn & Mr. Okano et al:

I am writing to express my dismay at the lack of response to both my own and Michael Petrelis’ letters, sent on Friday 12, 2010, in which we expressed dissatisfaction with the questionable conclusions relating to the NNRTI study, the ill-considered, simple, flippant, and unprofessional quotes, and the total lack of regard to the tone of the conclusions and the inaccuracies they imply.

In an email response to Michael’s letter on February 12, 2010, Dale Triber Tate, Executive Director, UCLA Health Sciences Communications and Government Relations acknowledged Michael’s “serious issues” with the January 22, 2010 press release, but deflected accountability from Enrique Rivero whose name appeared on the official UCLA press release, and placed the accountability firmly in the hands of the researchers, who remained as stunningly silent as they were loud upon the issuance of the release and it’s publication in the journal Science.

Outlining their communications procedure, Mr. Tate stated the following: “A researcher calls our office to let us know that a study is being published in a journal and he/she would like a press release drafted. After receiving a copy of the study, the assigned public information officer – in this case Enrique Rivero – drafts a press release. The press release is then sent to all of the authors of the study, and if they are at multiple institutions, those as well. Each of those authors make his/her edits and additions. Once all of the authors have agreed on a final version, it is posted. The research is done by the researchers, and it is their right to characterize it, describe it as they see it. We only step in if we discover a factual mistake. There are times when we disagree with the tone or language provided by the scientist and we convey and explain those views. But the researcher is the ultimate arbiter of what is contained in the press release that is distributed.”

While I hate the thought of these one dimensional extrapolations from this not-news study gaining any more traction than deserved in this carnation, the damage has already been done. Dr. Grant Colfax, San Francisco's HIV prevention chief, told us at a recent community event (sponsored in part by UCSF, and as a result of the MRSA mess from two years ago), that HIV drug resistance is not a public health crisis, and that this model revealed nothing new.

The alarmist conclusion in the article that appeared in the journal Science, heralding this wave of self congratulatory press communications, “Consequently, currently circulating NNRTI-resistant strains in San Francisco pose a great and immediate threat to global public health,” is dangerous, misleading and designed to do little more than perpetuate the relevance of the researchers by demonizing the very subjects they relied upon to conduct their studies. Gay men.

The notion that this would have implications for treatment anywhere in the United States, let alone third world or developing countries is absurd at best, and has the potential to inject uncertainty into critical prevention methodologies and inspire hate legislation aimed at gays and people with HIV/AIDS like we are seeing in Uganda. It is dangerous, callous and inexcusable.

Despite a letter urging a dialog from Supervisor Bevan Dufty, and direct outreach by Michael Petrelis and myself, all we have received from UCLA is a cursory explanation of an antiquated and inadequate communications structure. While Mr. Tate acknowledges only stepping in when they discover a “factual mistake,” his explanation above directly implicates everyone. The researchers responsible for their quotes, and the tone of the press release, initially drafted by Mr. Rivero using loaded language such as “waves” and a “surge” of HIV drug resistant strains that "will emerge over the next five years in San Francisco due to transmission from untreated individuals." If Mr. Rivero wrote the original draft, and published the final one with his name on it, who then is accountable?

This is not how the narrative is shaped any longer. My original recommendation has now escalated into a demand.

UCLA needs to issue an apology and a retraction. Stat.

Your move UCLA. We’re all watching.

Clinton Fein

Does the FBI Have a File on Harvey Milk?

When I saw the film "Milk" at the Castro Theatre in the fall of 2008, I wondered if the FBI had a file on Harvey Milk.

I was aware that the FBI, because someone had made Freedom of Information Act request, the FBI had released its voluminous files on the activities and members of the Gay Activists Alliance and the Gay Liberation Front.

Both groups were at their most active in the 1970s, just like Milk, and there's good reason to think the feds may have monitored the gay icon before his assassination, just as they kept tabs on other gay activists back then.

Since I can't locate any proof that anyone has asked if there's an file on him, today I sent a FOIA request to the FBI for any records on Harvey Milk.

I used the Get Grandpa's FBI File site to generate two letters. The first is to the field office in San Francisco, and the other is addressed to the FBI's central repository in Virginia. That letter-generating site is simple and free to use, for anyone looking for a file on any deceased person.

All I had to do was fill in the blank lines on the form about whose file I was requesting, provide basic info on the dead person, choose one option for proof of death (I picked enclosing a Wikipedia article), then click on the bright green arrow to print. It no more than ten minutes to follow all the steps, and print out the Milk Wiki page.

I've filed a few other FOIA requests over the years for other deceased notable and private individuals, and people often ask me how to make similar requests on the FBI. Like any good open government citizen activist, I want lots of my fellow Americans to do their part to bring additional sunshine to our federal government.

Click on over to Get Grandpas FBI File and make a request today. Let the sunshine in!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

UCLA: US PWA Drug Resistance:
'Quite High . . . Clinical Problems'

(Were they separated at birth?)

The Daily Bruin paper for UCLA ran a gushing article on February 10 about supposedly brilliant campus AIDS researchers and their fabulous findings. Half of it was all about Sally Blower, whose latest sky-is-falling HIV-related math model is the straw breaking the camel's back, after more than a decade of similar gloomy models.

Part of what's of interest here is her new claim that it's not just San Francisco people with AIDS suffering drug resistance, the problem is now nationwide:

“Because the level of drug resistance is really quite high (in the U.S.), it’s causing lots of clinical problems,” Blower said. “It’s harder and more expensive to treat people.”

Um, if it's not too much trouble for Blower and the Bruin, could we all see the independently verified research and stats on the supposed clinical problems, and exactly how it's become harder and costlier to treat us PWAs?

I'm not aware of anyone else in the scientific and public health communities, or indeed anyone in the AIDS Inc and PWA communities, backing up Blower's national claims.

The Bruin stenographer omitted any voices challenging Blower, and as of the date the article ran, Dr. Grant Colfax of SF DPH had made disparaging remarks about the study and its potential impact to the Chronicle and BAR. If only the stenographer had used Google to locate a front-line, public health doctor to give an opposing view.

In keeping with the apocalyptic nature of Blower's standard operating methods, the Bruin had this say about the alleged lethality of the new resistant strains of the virus:

Though it may be too late to save the U.S. from these drug-resistant strains of HIV, Blower said the new findings can be applied to places where HIV treatment is beginning.

Oh, my gosh. America is doomed! It's too late to repent, ye sinners! If only we had listened to Blower, maybe the nation could have been spared.

The problem we're really seeing with this multi-pronged crisis for UCLA is what we saw quite a bit over the past two decades with that campus and other UC campuses, particularly UCSF. Patterns are well-established and run by themselves, impervious to the communities and real people affected by the researchers.

In 2008, we saw UCSF's gays and staph infection study, with the sensationalistic aid of the campus media office, crank up the "fags in Frisco are still fcuking and spreading diseases" machine. Scary headlines soon followed. Weeks into the controversy, UCSF's school paper, the Synapse, ran a stenographic article that ignored existing criticism of the study.

Two years later, not having faced the justifiable wrath of the San Francisco gay community, UCLA naively tried to pull off that scenario, and they've run into trouble. Unfortunately, unlike the smarter folks at UCSF who recognized the larges mistakes made, honestly came forward to deal with the gay health crisis disturbing the local community.

Even with sustained and very vocal criticism from SF DPH, people with AIDS, gay advocates, a politician, our local gay newspaper, and another study challenging UCLA's prediction, the Blower and colleagues steadfastly maintain their silence.

Silence is not an acceptable component to gay male and PWA wellness.

BAR: 'Science' Must Retract UCLA
PWA Drug-Resistance Study?

Permit me to add things up for UCLA researcher and mathematician Sally Blower (above), whose latest doomsday math model related to people with AIDS continues to generate controversy.

1) Dr. Grant Colfax, head of SF DPH's HIV prevention programs has criticized Blower's model in three very public ways. He's been quoted in the SF Chronicle and on the Bay Area Reporter blog expressing strong reservations, and he appeared at a town hall meeting on gay health last week to make more of the gay community aware of his concerns.

2) A Canadian study involving thousands of actual living PWAs, carried out over more than a decade, contradicts Blower's research and found "drastic declines" in drug resistance, and was reported by Liz Highleyman of the HIVandHepatitis site earlier this month.

3) SF Supervisor Bevan Dufty yesterday sent letter to Blower requesting a frank discussion with her about the study, UCLA sensationalistic press release and the impact both are having on the local community.

4) POZ magazine's web site, in the "Web Watch" section, links to Dufty letter, making more PWAs aware of the Blower study and the controversy surrounding it.

5) This blog has publicly held Blower to account, here and here, while also communicating to her and the UCLA press department that they need to address the various concerns coming from many quarters.

On top of all that, the BAR today editorializes on the Blower study, showing that the controversy is not going away and indeed is growing. From the BAR:

Now, the prestigious journal Science has published a paper by researchers at UCSF and UCLA, including James Kahn and Sally Blower, that predicts a "wave" of HIV drug resistant strains "will emerge over the next five years in San Francisco due to transmission from untreated individuals." [...]

It was not a study examining the actual levels of drug resistant HIV and rates of its transmission in San Francisco. Other studies that have been done looked at actual levels of transmission of drug resistant strains of HIV and found rates declining, not rising. [...]

Once again, gay men in San Francisco are being stigmatized using code words.

Thank you, Cynthia Laird, BAR editor, for pointing out this reality, which doesn't seem to intrude upon Blower's thinking. The BAR also says:

If the Blower and Kahn paper is correct, why aren't we seeing any real-time red flag problems in treating people? We're not seeing that here in San Francisco, or Los Angeles, or New York City, or in any city where these medications have been prescribed widely for at least 10 years and where there has been ample opportunity to transmit resistant virus and then face the problems associated with treating patients infected with the resistant virus. [...]

If Blower were not locked up her UCLA ivory tower, she might deign to address the concerns above, and all the other questions being raised from San Francisco. Finally, the BAR wants several steps taken to undo the damage from Blower and her math model:

Science should re-review the paper and consider retracting it. The authors at UCSF and UCLA should apologize for this shoddy research that can inflame homophobia andAIDSphobia.

If Blower could put aside her ego, recognize the mistakes she's made, acknowledge the anger of San Francisco health leaders, apologize for those mistakes, and finally begin a constructive dialogue, we could move on from the controversy.

What will it take for Blower to leave her ivory tower and engage in communication with us?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

HRC Reveals Road Map to . . . Drag Bingo!

Oh, the absurdities of the American gays and their leading political advocacy org, the Human Rights Campaign. They just keep piling up. Consider the following absurd schedule of HRC events at the grassroots level, the last weekend of the month.

Yes, Joe Solmonese made the following boast in August 2009, "I also have a very clear road map and a plan" to achieve repealing Don't Ask/Don't Tell and passing the Employment Non Discrimination Act, and hasn't shown the community his road map, but the HRC money-making machine marches on.

The 2010 edition of HRC's Carolinas Gala is one damn party-filled weekend, with nary a political action to be seen on the schedule. This gala is another in a decades-long string of examples of the real HRC agenda: Keep the money flowing. Genuine political organizing, that is effective and achieves federal results, is at the bottom of HRC's gay agenda.

Among the events scheduled over the weekend is this fun-filled activity. Please note that a map is linked to:
Friday, February 26: 7-9 p.m. Drag Bingo (HRC Style)
It’s just a silly game. It’s outrageous. It’s funny. It’s DRAG BINGO! And this weekend, it’s coming to Raleigh. Featuring the always hilarious Mary K-mart and John Paul Womble, this is a can’t miss event. Tickets are $17.
For ticket information please visit
Raleigh Convention Center
Room 302
500 S. Salisbury Street - view map
Doors open at 7p.m., show starts at 8p.m.

The HRC is probably beyond any hope of achieving actual benefits at the federal level for gay people in this country, when, at this point in our movement, it is easier to find so many galas on their site, and comparable political mobilizations just aren't happening with HRC's membership.

I don't know how anyone can look at the HRC Carolinas Gala page and then come out and make the argument that this is a serious org pulling out all the stops to repeal DA/DT.

As if the drag bingo and gala weekend are not enough absurdity, HRC is peddling Solmonese has a "special guest." At his org's own gala, the director is a special invitee?

Here's his bio sketch:

President of the HRC since 2005, Solmonese has created successful initiatives to advance our vision for equality in both legislative and corporate arenas.

Where is the HRC road map to gay equality?
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.