Thursday, January 12, 2006

Black Gay Man Hired by CDC for HIV Prevention Branch

Suppose for a moment that a black gay man was hired by the CDC to run its national HIVSTD/TB prevention programs. Would you expect either the CDC or the press to inform the public of this positive development?

I would, but so far, the fact that the CDC has appointed Dr. Kevin Fenton to direct HIV/STD/HIV prevention efforts, and that he's a black gay man, has largely gone unnoticed and unreported.

This is what the CDC said about his qualifications when the agency announced his hiring on Nov. 23, 2005, and no mention was made about his sexual orientation:

> In addition, Kevin Fenton, M.D., Ph.D., was named director of the National Center for HIV, STD, and TB Prevention (NCHSTP). Dr. Fenton has served as chief of CDC’s National Syphilis Elimination Effort since January 2005. He has worked in research, epidemiology, and the prevention of HIV and other STDs since 1995 and was previously the Director of the HIV and STI Department at the United Kingdom’s Health Protection Agency. Dr Fenton has spearheaded the development of a number of national HIV, STD and behavioral surveillance and research programs in the U.K and Western Europe including the National Chlamydia Screening Programme in England, the 2nd British National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles and the European Surveillance of STI (ESSTI) Network.

But in an internal memo, that has not been posted on the web, the CDC hinted at his being gay:

> Family: A native of the U.K., Fenton now resides in Atlanta, with his partner of seven years. In December, their family was expanded to include a beautiful Basset hound named Avery.

Hmmmm. Fenton has a longtime partner and the CDC memo fails to name the partner or give a hint about the person's gender, but the agency provides more information about Fenton's family dog, including the pooch's name. Odd that the dog gets more attention than Fenton's human partner.

Here are a few links to UK black gay sites with more information on Fenton:

1. This links to his profile on the Blackout UK site last year during black history month.

2. Fenton was a co-author of an excellent, informative HIV prevention guidebook for black gay men, which can be found here.

3. While living in the UK, Fenton advised the Big Up! group on healthy sexual practices for black gay men. Learn more about their work here.

4. This is a picture of Fenton and it set off my gaydar.

Even though I heartily applaud the CDC hiring a highly-qualified professional, who just happens to be black and gay, to run the HIV/STD/TB prevention branches, I believe the federal agency and Fenton should face some criticism for not informing the public that Fenton is a black gay man.

Frankly, if the CDC and Fenton were to publicize all aspects of him and his life, he just might be able to be more effective at reaching at-risk black citizens; gay, straight, male female, and preventing transmission of HIV/STD/TB infections. Who could object to that?

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