Thursday, January 31, 2008

TX Paper: No Dallas Data Backs
UCSF Gays and Staph Study
Barbara French
Wallace Ravven
UCSF Public Affairs Department
Good morning, Barbara and Wallace.
A story in the today's Dallas Morning News with the provocative headline "No Dallas data to back up controversial study of staph in gays," raises numerous concerns for me that need addressing by UCSF, since your university conducted the study, unleashed monumental stigma against gays and did much to set back public health.
First of all, what is your official reaction to the Texas paper's claim that no data in Dallas exists to confirm UCSF claims? Does the lack of stats from Dallas undermine all or sections of your study and are you concerned that readers will get the impression that UCSF research in this case is faulty?
The findings of a recent study suggesting the emergence of an aggressive staph bacteria among gays in some cities could extend to Dallas, but there's not enough statistical data to make such an assessment, local health experts say. [...]

Dr. R. Doug Hardy, an infectious-disease expert at UT Southwestern Medical Center, said it's hard to say how the incidence of MRSA infections among gay men compares with those of heterosexual people and how often MRSA is transmitted from sexual contact.

"Anecdotally, we have had that experience that, possibly, we have seen an increase of these infections in facilities where men have sex with men," he said. "We felt like we were seeing more of drug-resistant staph infections from bathhouses. ... We haven't had a formal finding. It was more of a feeling."

Second, I am struck by the wide ambiguity of Dr. Hardy. Words like anecdotally, possibly, felt, feeling, do not lead me to believe there's hard and verifiable evidence from Dallas to support UCSF allegations equating gays with a larger proportion of staph infections over heterosexual people.
How do you respond to Dr. Hardy's clear inability to back up your recent claims? Would you agree with me that real science is a lot more than feelings and anecdotes, especially when crafting sound public health policies?
Third, the article goes on to report Dallas has two gay bathhouses and the manager of one was asked how his operation is working to minimize the chance of contracting staph:

"We're wiping down gym equipment constantly and disinfecting things constantly," he said.

He said the study concerns him, and that the spa will take extra precautions, such as posting fliers about MRSA and advising clients to be more careful inside and outside the club.

I'm sure we agree the strengthening of sanitizing efforts in all public and private facilities where staph might be transmitted is healthy for all populations at risk of contracting staph infections. Bravo to the gay baths of Dallas for moving, on their own, to protect the health of their clientele.
But I wonder why I've not read of or heard from UCSF about any effort on its part to collaborate with San Francisco gay businesses to increase sanitary awareness and habits, such as making sure soap and water are available at all times for washing hands?
After all, UCSF's study claimed gay men in San Francisco are 13 times more likely to contract staph, and with that kind of higher infection rate, I would think you all would have immediately initiated working with gay businesses to increase hygiene, but that doesn't seem to have happened. Why not?
The article gave me a reason to laugh, in reporting that a UCSF staph researcher believes his study was "overhyped." Well now, who's to blame for that? Paris Hilton's p.r. agents, or the UCSF press office?

Dr. Henry F. Chambers, one of the study's authors, said he thinks the study has been overhyped across the country.

"This has nothing to do with AIDS, and it's not like it, either," said Dr. Chambers, a professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco.

He also noted that the study did not examine the rate of occurrence in multi-drug-resistant MRSA in people who have heterosexual sex.

How nice, fags in Frisco received the special attention of UCSF researchers, who didn't look for straight staph occurrences. Let's be honest here. Straights should thank their lucky stars they're not subjected to endless stigmatizing UCSF research and p.r., like gays must endure. Will UCSF ever get around to studying straights and their staph infection rates?

Let me draw your attention to the latest AP wire story, from yesterday, about a heterosexual person contracting staph and dying from the infection:

PHOENIX (AP) — Ron Horton, the man who led police to two suspected serial killers in 2006 and was credited with ending their monthslong shooting spree, died Saturday. He was 49.

Horton died after suffering from a staph infection called Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, according to his former wife, Debbie Dryer, who is now taking care of their three sons.

So, with the Dallas Morning News casting much doubt on some aspects your recent controversial study, I'd like to have a written response today regarding the serious implications of the Dallas story on UCSF's diminished reputation in general, and especially among gay men.

A prompt reply would be most appreciated.

Best regards,

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Chronicle: SF Gay Rent-Boy Bar Closes Tonight
The Chronicle's gossip maven Leah Garhick reports that today is the last day and night of operations of this disreputable Polk Street institution.

Guess this means when the bartenders at one of the last rent-boy bars in town tonight announce "last call for alcohol," it really will be the last call for booze, and boys, at Kimo's!
So long, Kimo's, and thanks for the all the drunken, raunchy people and the times they enjoyed at your dive.

Your demise tonight is the end of an era for the Polkstrasse neighborhood, but many of us will remember the good times had at the bar and in the bathroom of Kimo's.
Kimo's on Polk Street, which opened in 1978 and is one of the oldest gay bars in town, is closing today.

Owner Kimo Cochran bought a house by the river in Guerneville and just decided it was time to close. There will be food and Champagne "and probably a lot of tears on my part," Cochran says.
And "does anyone know if great bars go to heaven?" e-mails Jim Schock upon the closing of the Washington Square Bar & Grill. "If there are no bars up there, I'm going to have to rethink dying."
And even smarty-pants college professors went to Kimo's. It definitely attracted a diverse crowd of men, and wayward women. This is excerpted from a profile on San Francisco State University human sexuality professor John DeCecco, and his long career, that appeared in May 2007 in the Chronicle:

De Cecco (pronounced duh-CHECK-o), is 82 now, a bit physically diminished but vigorous in his curiosities. He edits the Journal of Homosexuality, an academic peer-review journal that comes out eight times per year; is a member and sponsor of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Historical Society; and still finds huge fascination in the subject of sex -- its practices, its permutations, in particular the windows it provides into the human psyche.

But sex is more than an abstraction -- it's also an active pursuit. De Cecco doesn't date, per se, but frequents Polk Street, where he cruises for male hustlers and goes to Kimo's, a bar that caters to older men and rent boys. Most of the men he hires are in their 20s or early 30s, often homeless or living in fleabag hotels. Many of them use crystal meth or heroin.

It's the pursuit, the mystery of the man as yet unattained, unconquered, that motivates him. "It's going out on the street and seeing who's there, who's available, and meeting someone about whom you know nothing. And just having this very intimate act with a stranger. ... It's partly the unpredictability of what's going to happen."

Gays, UCSF Agree to Meet Over Staph Stigma

I'm pleased to announce we've heard back from Barbara French and that a meeting will take place next week, as one small part of a much larger engagement by the university with the local gay community.

Our email today to UCSF:

Hi Barbara:
On behalf of the three of us -- Michael, Hank and myself -- I am confirming that the proposed time and date are convenient and that the three of us will attend the meeting at the proposed 1pm on Tuesday, February 5.
We would be happy to submit a proposed agenda by end of day Thursday. Of course, if there are any items we might have missed, or additional items on your end you feel would be appropriate, please add them, and communicate them to us to be incorporated.
To that end, it would be helpful to estimate a time frame for the meeting, in addition to determining who of your colleagues will be in attendance, so a meeting agenda can be constructed accordingly.
Looking forward to a productive dialog.

UCSF sent this email yesterday:


In invite you, Clinton and Hank to meet with me and a few of my colleagues on Tuesday, Feb. 5, at 1pm. Please let me know if this is convenient. To be most productive, may I suggest that we agree upon our agenda in advance.



Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Israeli Knesset Member: Gays = 'Plague,'
Ban Jerusalem Pride
Here's a timely reminder that it isn't just San Francisco where we see powerful people equating gays with diseases and plagues.

Oy, where does one start in responding to the recent efforts by members of the Israeli Knesset to outlaw gay pride in Jerusalem, comments calling us a plague upon the land and that we should be put in rehab? I'd say with gays making noise in protest of such proposals and bigoted remarks.

Bravo to the activist patrol members and their informational leafleting efforts.

From a Tuesday story on the Y Net News site from Israel:

Members of Hadash party's "Red-Pink Patrol" hung placards overnight Tuesday on the homes of Knesset members Eli Gabbay (National Union-NR) and Nissim Zeev (Shas) in protest of a proposal banning gay pride parades in Jerusalem.

"In this house lives an MK who is trying to outlaw the citizens' right to march and protest on the streets of Jerusalem," one of the posters read. "This anti-democratic bill is targeting not only the homosexual, lesbian, transgender and bisexual communities, but also human and civil rights in general. [...]

During a heated Knesset debate Sunday, MK Zeev claimed that the proposed legislation was aimed at assisting homosexuals and lesbians who want to start a family.

He said that if it was up to him he would put gays in rehabilitation centers "along with drug addicts and alcoholics".

Zeev went as far as comparing the gay movement to a "plague that may destroy Jewish Israel", adding that this "plague" should be dealt with "just as the Health Ministry is dealing with bird flu." [...]

Gays Still Waiting for UCSF Chancellor
Meeting on Staph Stigma

As the third week of the UCSF gays and staph infections mess unfolds, I must say I am very disappointed the university has engaged in zero public accountability with the stigmatized community. UCSF, and its public affairs office in particular, has held no meetings or discussions with local gays.
It's as if we're infected with cooties and UCSF administrators are afraid of catching something if they began to treat community health advocates respectfully and sit in a room with us.
Five long days ago I requested a meeting with the UCSF chancellor. Yesterday longtime advocates Hank Wilson and Clinton Fein called and emailed the lesbian in charge of public affairs, Barbara French.
We are still waiting for her written reply about when UCSF will meet with.
I wonder if UCSF would take so long to meet with members of any other community slimed by the university's press office. Would African-Americans, women, Latinos, deaf people, have to wait this long for the chancellor to direct his staff to meet with that community?
The UCSF chancellor owes the gay community real engagement, and soon.
January 24, 2008
Michael Bishop, MD
University of California at San Francisco
Dear Dr. Bishop,
I called your office today requesting a meeting for myself and other gay community health advocates and you. No one got back to me by the end of business today.
We would like to start a dialogue at the top of UCSF's leadership structure about what led to a very offensive UCSF news release last week regarding a study on staph infections.
Our community has been battered and stigmatized worldwide because of UCSF, and the way forward for local gays and your university begins with you hearing our concerns directly from us, the affected community.
We must hear from you what process was broken that led to the homophobic news release, how UCSF has disciplined those responsible, what measures are being taken to repair the damaged fragile relationship between the campus and the gay community, and how will you engage with us in the future to make sure the controversy we've endured as gays for the past two week because of UCSF's press office is never repeated.
To learn more about how the gay community has reacted to UCSF's clumsy handing of the "gays = staph infection" mess, check out my blog: .
Please contact me on Friday about setting up a meeting. Thanks.
Best regards,
Michael Petrelis

January 28, 2008

Ms. Barbara French

Associate Vice Chancellor of University Relations

Box 0462 , 3333 California St. 103

University of California, San Francisco

San Francisco, CA. 94143 - 0462

Dear Ms. French:

As a San Francisco resident for the last thirteen years, I am writing to urge that you or an appropriate member of your staff agree to meet with concerned members of the community to address the far-reaching and damaging consequences stemming from an ill-advised press release issued by UCSF regarding a study about MRSA in men who have sex with men. (Emergence of Multidrug-Resistant, Community-Associated, Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus Clone USA300 in Men Who Have Sex with Men.)

While UCSF admitted mea culpa by issuing a disturbingly vague and unsatisfying apology (that did little to clarify specifically what the unintended damage was or specifically how the press release could have been so widely misinterpreted), many people continue to believe that UCSF has violated an important trust that is critical to the success of current and future studies, as well as the credibility of UCSF communications.

To the extent that people with AIDS or compromised immune systems are even more vulnerable to infection than most, it is useful that a researcher involved in the study has agreed to serve on a panel convened by Stop Aids on Wednesday to address the fallout from the UCSF press release. However, MRSA is not confined to people with AIDS or HIV, and the irresponsible language of the press release impacts more than just the gay community.

You are the individual who oversees the departments of Public Affairs, which is responsible for communicating news and information about UCSF to internal and external audiences, and Community and Governmental Relations, which fosters relationships with neighbors, community groups and government officials. You also oversee the UCSF Center for Gender Equity, which provides advocacy, education and support for men, women and the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities. Yours is an important and valuable role.

While working for the San Jose Mercury News, it was you who “broke the story that the reason the San Jose Fire Department didn’t have a single female firefighter was because of the false notion that women couldn’t pass the physical exam.” You recognize the power of the media, and have been quoted as saying: “As diverse as San Francisco and California are, you have to be sensitive and aware of multicultural differences and communicate appropriately to your audiences.”

The concentration of gays and lesbians, in San Francisco in particular, allows for incredible partnership opportunities with UCSF, and, as UCSF researchers themselves have pointed out, allows for valuable research and studies to be conducted that ultimately benefit the entire population. This mutually beneficial relationship is one that demands trust and integrity, both of which have been significantly compromised by the issuing of such an irresponsible press release. Instead of receiving gratitude for providing unique social and demographic opportunities to study such things as MRSA, an entire community has been vilified, endangered and scapegoated.

The media coverage related to the inappropriate language and implications of the UCSF press release has been global in scope, as has the misinformation garnered from it. The press release even failed to heed the cautions issued by the editor of Annals of Internal Medicine, in which the study was published. Homophobic organizations have specifically cited the press release as evidence of homosexuality being unhealthy and dangerous, to the peril of children and adults ensconced in such environments. While demonizing gays and lesbians can be hurtful in places like San Francisco, it can be lethal in paces like Wyoming.

Further, athletes, gym goers, and pretty much anyone who engages in contact activities, sexual or otherwise, or who comes into contact with contaminated surfaces, regardless of their sexual orientation, have been dealt a great disservice by the UCSF press release. What could have served as a useful prevention tool instead left the impression that MRSA was a concern primarily among men who have sex with men.

I truly believe it would be useful and productive for you or an appropriate UCSF liaison to meet with those of us concerned about the fractured relationship resulting from this press release, and provide an opportunity to not simply give voice to our concerns and express our dismay, but more importantly, facilitate a healthy exchange of ideas that will ultimately serve UCSF and the community at large.

It is a small step that could go a long way in terms of restoring the trust that has been breached and to explore remedies so that the communications issued by UCSF take into consideration the institution’s leadership role -- locally, nationally and internationally-- and the extent to which their communications impact the broader community they are intended to serve.

I would be happy to schedule and help facilitate such a meeting at your earliest convenience, and look very forward to a response.


Clinton Fein

Monday, January 28, 2008

Survey: 'Straight Staph' Epidemic Killing U.S. Heterosexuals

All of the recent stories on gays and staph infections, and the deadliness of such infections, got me thinking about what may have appeared in the mainstream press lately on people dying of staph. Before Googling the terms MRSA, staph, death, and dead, I expected to find lots of stories with about this subject with references to gays dying of the infection.
What I found was an overwhelming number of articles about heterosexuals contracting staph infections and dying. So far, Googling has yet to produce one article reporting on a gay man killed by MRSA.
This unscientific survey, if we wanted to use this collection of articles to make rhetorical points, could easily be packaged and pitched to the mainstream media as proof that MRSA is a heterosexually transmitted disease, spreading and killing in the general population and that just as reporters covered the UCSF staph study and press release from a "gays = disease" angle, fair journalism now demands stories examining straight peoples' sexual habits and infections.
Of course, we won't see such stories, and, indeed, my survey didn't locate one article mentioning the sexual orientation of any of the dead. The question of heterosexual transmission of staph wasn't raised, but I'm certain, had any of the fatalities been gay, his sexual orientation would be the central angle.
I regret each of these deaths and extend deep sympathies to the families and friends of the dead, and I've grappled with the ethics of using these stories and deaths to make some very necessary political and public health points.
Thanks to a sex-sensational UCSF press release stigmatizing gay men and the resultant global media hysteria, the matter of who contracts MRSA and other staph infections that kill, and how the infection is acquired, created the politicization of a very dangerous health problem for America.
I'm simply trying to point out the double-standards and ethics of UCSF and the media, and hopefully show how the pathologizing of gay male sexuality is a serious matter for not just the gay community, but all of America.

Excerpts from recent news articles:

May 19, 2006

FORT WORTH, Texas - Kimberly Kay Jackson loved getting pedicures each month, especially with bright pink nail polish, although as a paraplegic she couldn’t feel the massages and bubbling water on her feet.

But after her heel was cut with a pumice stone during a July pedicure, she developed an oozing wound that wouldn’t heal despite repeated rounds of antibiotics, relatives said. The 46-year-old died in February of a heart attack triggered by a staph infection, said the family’s attorney, Steven C. Laird.

May 10, 2007

A 15-year-old Salt Lake City boy may have died from a severe staph infection while enrolled in a youth wilderness program near Montrose in southwest Colorado.

Colorado authorities continue to investigate the May 2 death of Caleb Jensen in a rugged, mountainous area while at an Alternative Youth Adventures camp. Autopsy results may not be available for another week or more, said Scott Wagner, chief investigator for the Montrose County District Attorney's Office.

June 22, 2007

BEAVERTON, Ore. - Officials confirmed Friday that a staph infection has played a role in a baby's death at Providence St. Vincent Medical Center.

The news comes after hospital officials found staph bacteria in the neonatal intensive care unit earlier this month and began treating babies there. [...]

Some babies were bathed with an anti-bacterial soap. Others got antibiotics applied nasally.

One of those became sick and died within the past week and a half.

October 16, 2007
BEDFORD, Virginia (AP) -- A high school student who was hospitalized for more than a week with an antibiotic-resistant staph infection has died, and officials shut down 21 schools for cleaning to keep the illness from spreading.
Ashton Bonds, 17, a senior at Staunton River High School, died Monday after he was found to have Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, his mother said.
October 26, 2007

Omar Rivera, a seventh-grader at Intermediate School 211, died October 14 from the infection, according to the New York City school superintendent, but investigators were unable to confirm where he contracted the infection.

MRSA is short for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, and is responsible for more deaths in the United States each year than AIDS, according to new data.

November 2
, 2007

PORT TOWNSEND, Wash. - A student at Port Townsend High School in Washington was diagnosed with MRSA, school officials said. Just hours later, the King County Medical Examiner cited MRSA as the cause of death of a man at a Seattle hospital.

John F. Jones, 46, of Federal Way died from MRSA at Harborview Medical Center on Wednesday, according to the Medical Examiner's Office.

November 15, 2007

AMARILLLO - A 13-year-old Borger boy died last week from a drug-resistant staph infection. But, health officials say it's impossible to determine how rare deaths of this kind are because reporting efforts are voluntary. [...]

Mason Chandler Frost of Borger died Friday in an Amarillo hospital.

November 16, 2007

Test results from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed that well-known Maori entertainer Rhonda Bryers died of the drug-resistant "superbug" that has been attracting national attention.

Bryers, 55, died Sept. 28 at her 'Aiea Heights home after falling ill from an infection caused by methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, said Honolulu Medical Examiner Dr. Kanthi De Alwis.

November 30, 2007

A 15-year-old Plano student died from a regular staph infection and not from an antibiotic-resistant strain, a Collin County health official Friday.

Chad Jeter, who died Thursday, probably contracted the regular staph infection sometime after he injured his leg in a skateboard accident on Thanksgiving, said Janet Glowicz, the county's epidemiologist.

A bacterial culture Thursday ruled out MRSA, a staph strain known to be spreading through schools and other gathering place throughout the nation, she said. [...]

In January, a 14-year-old Richardson boy died of pneumonia caused by MRSA.

Dec 11,2007
(Rockville, MD) -- The death of a Montgomery County, Maryland special education teacher from a drug-resistant staph infection may be the first such fatality in Maryland outside of a hospital.

Parents of kids attending Hoover Middle School in Rockville said they were shocked to learn of the death of 48-year-old Merry King, who had been in a coma for six days.

January 6, 2008

AUSTIN, TX — An abrasion caused by artificial turf is being blamed for the death of a high school football player here in December, according to a report by Bloomburg News on Dec. 21.
Sixteen-year-old Boone Baker, a wide receiver on the Austin High School team died from an infection of methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), which he contracted from the abrasion on the field, said his doctor, according to the Bloomburg article.

January 9, 2008

It's the kind of worst-case scenario that worries health-care professionals: A Perry County teen dies of an antibiotic-resistant staph infection.

Tyler Bundock, 14, died Dec. 20 at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, where he was being treated for a pneumonia-related infection that crippled his lungs' ability to process oxygen.

January 16, 2008

A 32-year-old Erie County Office of Children and Youth caseworker died Thursday at Millcreek Community Hospital from complications of Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus.

Millcreek Community officials confirmed the cause of Cheri Lyons' death Tuesday.

January 26, 2008

ENCINITAS – Last Christmas, Brian Carbaugh's brother visited the UCSD Burn Center to drop off toys for children being treated there.
It was a tradition that Brian, 13, started years ago, after he had severely burned his feet in a fire pit as a toddler. The Encinitas boy had been treated at the center, enduring unimaginable pain with a cheerful face and unyielding bravery, nurse Maury Scott said.

Brian couldn't make his annual Christmas delivery because he was back in the hospital – the victim of a vicious bacterial infection that on Jan. 19 took his life.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Next 'Gays = Disease' Panic Arrives
Feb 3 at CROI in Boston
The local health department chief, Dr. Thomas Frieden, with the collaboration of AIDS superstar researcher Dr. David Ho, sounded the alarm about this one case, and predicted dire consequences when more such cases emerged, and they were sure to emerge because of the rampant unsafe sexual relations of gay men, particularly those high on meth.
This was one more classic panic created based on a lone individual or small number of cases, about a serious problem in the gay AIDS community, blown up into apocalyptic proportions.
Many executives who work in AIDS Inc seized upon the experts' new warnings, and a collective nanny finger was disapprovingly wagged at fags everywhere, not just the Chelsea district in Manhattan. By and large, average gays tuned out the alarms from Frieden, Ho and company, just as they have done on lots of the other occasions when sex/gays/disease fears were thrown at us.
The 2005 hysteria whirled into action right before the start of the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections, CROI, held that year in Boston.
There is an unwritten law that says all HIV/AIDS researchers, experts and local health department must present alarming new stats or studies or drug-resistant strains of existing infections related to gay men, preferably on the eve of scientific conferences, the better to dominate the news out of the conference, or during the conference.
For those with short memories, let me remind you of the alarmist claims in June 2000 of allegedly sub-Saharan levels of new HIV transmissions in San Francisco by the local health department and researchers at UCSF, first made on the front pages of the SF Chronicle and NY Times. The AIDS Inc and media fear machines were in full swing with the scary claims, coming right before the start of that year's international AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
Later this week the 2008 edition of CROI kicks off, again in Boston, and if history is any indication, we can expect HIV researchers to release frightening new stats or studies targeting gay men, and quotes from the experts about needing to sound an alarm because the gay community is supposedly complacent about our health needs.
The 2008 CROI event starts on February 3 and I damn sure hope to be proved wrong about researchers and their evidence presented before or during the conference. If we get through CROI this year without fearful and apocalyptic presentations and statements from researcher, I'll be among the first to applaud such an approach.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Union-Tribune: Straight Teen Male
Dies of 'Super Bug' Staph Infection

My thoughts and prayers go out to the Carbaugh family as they cope with the loss of their beloved Brian, who recently died from a drug resistant staph infection.
The death of this presumably straight boy from this disease illustrates how wrong it was of UCSF's press office to promote the dangerous idea that MRSA is primarily afflicting the gay community in San Francisco and other cities with large gay populations, and not in the so-called "general population."
After two weeks of gay staph infection media hysteria, induced largely through the lead UCSF staph study researcher Dr. Binh Diep continually telling the press that MRSA rates are high for homosexuals and could rapidly spread to the general population, I've determined that are two reason to be upset with Diep's remarks.
Yes, he was an idiot to isolate gays from the larger local community, but as troubling was his promoting the misperception that MRSA is not already widespread in the "general population." It is, Dr. Diep. This tragic story today from San Diego is just a single example from a Google news search for "staph" or "MRSA" of how prevalent the problem really is for heterosexuals.
The death of Brian Carbaugh shows how MRSA respects no sexual orientation identity or STD transmission routes or age of the patient or geographic location, and reminds us all how reprehensible it was of UCSF media relations officers to zero in on gays, instead of stressing how we are all at-risk for staph infections.
ENCINITAS – Last Christmas, Brian Carbaugh's brother visited the UCSD Burn Center to drop off toys for children being treated there.
It was a tradition that Brian, 13, started years ago, after he had severely burned his feet in a fire pit as a toddler. The Encinitas boy had been treated at the center, enduring unimaginable pain with a cheerful face and unyielding bravery, nurse Maury Scott said.

Brian couldn't make his annual Christmas delivery because he was back in the hospital – the victim of a vicious bacterial infection that on Jan. 19 took his life.

Scott said he and other nurses were aware that Brian had been ill, but “we didn't know it would develop into this.” [...]

Officials with the San Dieguito Union School District said Brian may have contracted the bacterial infection, known as Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, at a wrestling class at the Boys & Girls Club of San Dieguito. [...]

Friday, January 25, 2008

(Jack Mackenroth, on the left, with other members of NYC's gay aquatics team. Photo credit:

NYT blog omits recent hysteria:
Gay TV star had staph infection

I'm sure every other gay man in America, or at least those gays who watch reality shows, already knows about the handsome Jack Mackenroth and his bout with a staph infection last year, and his being quite public about it, raising much-needed awareness for problem.

Well, I did not know about him until today, when I read a New York Times health blog, written by Tara Parker-Pope, and an entry on it from two day ago:

The fashion reality competition Project Runway got a scary dose of reality recently when one of its contestants came down with an infection caused by MRSA, the virulent strain of drug-resistant bacteria that captured headlines last fall after the deaths of two young students.

New York fashion designer Jack Mackenroth, 38, was diagnosed with community-acquired methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, and has since recovered. But the emergence of MRSA on reality TV comes amidst warnings that the potentially deadly bacteria has become more common.

Last fall, The Journal of the American Medical Association published a report that MRSA appears to be killing more people annually than AIDS, emphysema or homicide, taking an estimated 19,000 lives in 2005.

Good of this Times blog to delve into the MSRA matter and inform gays like me about Mackenroth, but it's curious to see this entry posted this week, without any real new news hook to it.

The writer says the nasty bug was big news last fall with the death of two straight students, and nothing is said about the headlines circling the globe for the past two weeks, including in the Times.

She also writes about a JAMA article from last fall, omitting any reference to the UCSF study published last week on the Annals of Internal Medicine web site.

Is Tara Parker-Pope unaware of the media hysteria over gays and staph infections? I think she should have made at least a passing reference to what's happened with MSRA and gay men recently. Don't you agree?

Those concerns aside, the comments on this Times blog entry, with thoughtful replies from Tara Parker-Pope, provide a terrific education about staph infections and control them.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

BAR: Gays Leave HIV Research Over Staph Hysteria?
The fallout from the toxic and homophobic UCSF press release last week on gays and staph infections continues. An editorial in today's Bay Area Reporter raises the question of gays no longer collaborating with researchers:

While we would have preferred that the initial news release issued by UCSF researchers last Monday on the multi-drug-resistant staph infection was not sensationalistic and homophobic, the university did post a short apology on its Web site last Friday, after being asked to by longtime activist Michael Petrelis, who, like many others, took strong exception to the wording used in the original statement. Additionally, some of the researchers involved in the study of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus or MRSA, particularly the new USA300 strain, have now expressed their "regret" for how the release was worded, in particular the statements that implied gay men were not part of the "general population."

For years, HIV/AIDS research has relied on gay men and last week's clumsy release – compounded by the mainstream media coverage – caused us to question why men would want to participate in future research.

The university has pledged to do a better job in the future, and we'll be watching.

As the gay community debates how best to undue the damage inflicted on us by UCSF, the university's press office and the many gay men who work there, including in the large communication department have made no effort to engage the community in a frank talk.
UCSF would be smart to organize its own town hall meetings, and there should be more than one, so that there can be a public accounting by the university to the stigmatized gay community. It is not enough for UCSF to issue a mea culpa on the web and think that's all it will take to repair the tremendous damage wrought by its insensitivity.
For some unknown reason the SF AIDS Foundation's January 22 community meeting in the Castro didn't include Wallace Ravven, the UCSF p.r. maven who wrote the initial release, or anyone from the UCSF press office.
Equally odd is the fact that a second community forum, hosted by the Stop AIDS Project and scheduled for January 30, also excludes Ravven or another representative from the university's press outfit.
On the subject of UCSF's press office, people should be aware that the original news release was radically revised yesterday.
Starting with a headline focused on the strain of staph, instead of emphasizing sex and homosexuals, to omitting references to the general population, and ending with UCSF now giving more info on the Boston clinic involved in the study, the university does more damage control.
Sexually active gay men vulnerable to new, highly infectious bacteria
New multi-drug-resistant bacteria emerge in U.S. cities on both coasts
The study is based on review of medical records from outpatient clinics in San Francisco and Boston as well as nine of 10 medical centers serving San Francisco.
The research is based on information collected from MRSA cases from nine of 10 medical centers serving San Francisco and medical records from outpatients with MRSA infections who were treated in an HIV clinic in San Francisco and a clinic serving a predominantly lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender population in Boston.
I'm not sure why UCSF feels the need to go expansive like this and now explain the full range of clientele at the Boston clinic, and spell out LGBT, and move up that info in the revision, but the revisions should be an integral component of town hall discussions in the gay community and separate ones hosted by UCSF.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

KTVU Video: Angry Staph Meeting in SF;
GLAAD on MRSA v Heath Ledger

(On the far left, Dr. Chip Chambers, coauthor of UCSF study.)

A meeting was held in the Castro neighborhood last night to discuss the recent hysterical media coverage about gays and staph infections, and what the UCSF study at the center of the media firestorm means for gay health.
KTVU was there and ran a decent story on the meeting, which you can view here.
Unfortunately, KTVU's crew left after an hour or so, and they missed San Francisco Chronicle science reporter Sabin Russell near the end of the meeting explain and defend his staph coverage last week.
He said he had nothing to apologize for in his reporting and encouraged people upset with the Chronicle to send letters to the editor. I suggested that in the future he move away from his standard practice of only quoting UCSF researchers and spokespersons, and also quote voices from the gay community either skeptical of the research and how it's presented to the media.
Believe it or not, the organizers of the forum, executives of the SF AIDS Foundation, hadn't invited anyone from the UCSF press office to the meeting to discuss what led to their offensive release on the study, so no one from the UCSF office directly responsible for spurring the global homophobic headlines was there to be publicly accountable to the affected gay community.
This will come as a shock to many who know of my contentious history with Sabin Russell, but I give the dude tons of credit for attending the meeting on his own time (he wasn't there to report on it), and for listening to the community conversation. Versus the no-shows from UCSF's press department, who have made no effort to stage their own town hall meeting to engage the community.
In other staph news, GLAAD sent me a message today responding to a question I posed to them yesterday:
Why did GLAAD wait four days before saying a peep on the staph coverage, but issuing a statement on Heath Ledger's death only minutes after that news hit the wires?
Here is the reply, which I am very skeptical of, and which I ask you to swallow with a large grain of salt.
Does anyone really think the NY Times reporter needed the "resources" of GLAAD to help him get out of his office, talk to gays on the street, detect the anger in the community, find the CDC and CWA releases on the web, in order to write his article?
I find it troubling that the gay community's supposed media watchdog can allow homophobic stories to run for four days without publicly challenging the hysteria, and then asks activists to accept assurances of vaguely working behind-the-scene as proof that they were combating the troubling coverage.
A group with a $7.7 million annual budget ought to be able to easily and quickly advocate publicly for its community, while also using back channels with the offending press outlets.

Hi Michael,

I hope all is well. We’ve outlined our work on the MRSA story in the statement below. Please let me know if you have any further questions.


Cerissa Cafasso
Associate Director of Public Relations & Communications


The MRSA story involved complex medical research. When we first heard of the story, we needed to get fully educated on all the issues. To this end, we consulted with The Gay & Lesbian Medical Association. Their expertise informed our ability to analyze the media coverage accurately. We felt it judicious to take the necessary time, care and caution to understand completely the story so that we could offer the best suggestions for media to report on the MRSA strain in the most fair and accurate way. As always, most of our media advocacy work happens behind-the-scenes – criticizing media outlets in the most effective way the situation calls for. We would have done a huge disservice to our media contacts and to our constituency had we spoken before we had all the facts. Since our statement and outreach we’ve been encouraged by the quality of coverage as put forth in the The New York Times and, and are encouraging other outlets – including those who misreported the story earlier – to run similar pieces.

To expand on our behind-the-scenes work: we provided resources to The New York Times San Francisco Bureau Chief, Jesse McKinley, who did a comprehensive follow-up to the MRSA story exploring the anti-gay right's manipulation of the story and the researchers’ missteps in their original statements. We also blasted our Eye on the Media document to nearly 50 health reporters at 28 national and key regional news outlets. We pitched GLMA's President Joel Ginsberg into and provided resources for an follow-up piece which explored the MRSA controversy ( And we’re actively pitching follow-ups to the Wall Street Journal, Reuters, the San Francisco Chronicle (the latter two of which reprinted, without scrutiny, problematic statements by researcher and lead author Dr. Binh Diep).

Heath Ledger’s role in Brokeback Mountain forever ties him to the media history of our community. Responding to his tragic death was an acknowledgment of his iconic performance and of the lasting influence film has to change hearts and minds.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Euro CDC Clarifies Gay Staph
Media Confusion

Thanks to a story today in London's Pink Pages, I was made aware of an important announcement from the European Centre for Prevention and Disease Control regarding gay men and staph infections, which the gay newspaper reports came out on January 17.
I like that the ECPDC highlights the limitations of the UCSF study and that unlike UCSF's original release, the ECPDC makes no implications that gays and the general population are totally separate entities.
This is the second major governmental health promotion agency to make a corrective statement that is most substantive, and the ECPDC did so a full day before that useless gay media glam group GLAAD.
The authors did not have access to data on the specific sexual behaviour of those infected with this MRSA strain. As the risks associated with some sexual behaviour are much greater than with others it needs more detailed information. Sexual risk could only be assessed by the authors using proxy-indicators. At this time there is no evidence that this MRSA strain is transmitted sexually in the classical sense of the term.
What are the implications of this strain for Europe? To our knowledge, this strain of MRSA is not as common in Europe as compared with the US. Furthermore, we do not know the extent of its spread among MSM in Europe. In the Netherlands in 2003, the detection of a few cases of PVL-positive MRSA in MSM led to public health action (surveillance, and a low-key awareness campaign for physicians and in the gay community) [18]. [...]
In conclusion, clinicians across Europe should be aware of this particular strain as a possible aetiology in case of skin infections in MSM. Pending further research, awareness may also need to be promoted among the MSM community to highlight the symptoms, prevention measures and implications.
The original UCSF press release, entitled Sexually-active gay men vulnerable to new, highly infectious bacteria was based on a study due to be published in the February 19th issue of Annals of Internal Medicine. [...]
The press release was picked up by the media throughout the world.

UK tabloid newspaper Metro said it was the "new HIV," while others called the new strain of MRSA a "gay disease."

GLAAD v CDC Gay Staph Releases;
SF Chronicle Ignoring UCSF Apology

Starting last Monday gay men were subjected to some damn awful mainstream media coverage after UCSF put out a provocative release about a staph study, four times alluding to how gay men are allegedly not part of the general population.
Too many news outlets created stories incorrectly stigmatizing gay men and our risk level for contracting a nasty staph infection, and by Wednesday the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a press statement to clarify all of the homophobic misperceptions in the news.
I'm someone who believes the CDC does a lousy job of dealing with gay men and diseases, especially sexually transmitted infections, but I give much credit to the federal health agency for realizing the damage to public health being done by the stories, and rather quickly moving to issue a clarifying statement.
At the same time, the advocacy group whose mission is to monitor the media's handling of gay issues, and combat anti-gay news coverage, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, was silent about the raging homophobia included in hundreds of domestic and international staph articles.
Since the beginning of the week, GLAAD has been closely monitoring media coverage of a report published in the "Annals of Internal Medicine" on a drug-resistant strain of MRSA bacteria, known as USA300, found in gay men in San Francisco and Boston. [...]
Jeez, is that all GLAAD did over five long days was "monitor" the awfulness? Anyone with a computer was able to closely monitor the stories. I don't get the sense the group broke into a sweat over the coverage.
GLAAD has been working closely with the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association (GLMA) to examine and respond to media coverage of the story, reaching out to reporters to provide accurate resources and background on the study. [...]
Oy, more closeness from GLAAD, this time involving another group MIA as the homophobic headlines appeared across the nation all week. I sure would like hard evidence reached as claimed, and what came of it.
GLAAD and GLMA are urging media to ensure that they are covering this study accurately and in all its complexity, that they understand and report on the limitations of the findings, and that they not overstate or misstate the study's conclusions. The groups are also urging media to consult a Centers for Disease Control (CDC) statement this week that clarified some of the misimpressions caused by the initial wave of media coverage.
Gosh, five days after it all began, these two gay advocacy group are so concerned they're urging the media to do a better job. Translation, the barn has burned to the ground and GLAAD and GLMA call for better sprinklers.
But nice of GLAAD to note that the CDC was doing what it couldn't or wouldn't -- clarifying the lies being spread about gays and staph. It says many terrible things about professional gay advocacy organizations that they did less than the CDC, and under the Bush administration no less, an administration hostile to gay health.
I think GLAAD last week was simply too busy partying at the Sundance film festival and getting ready for their glam awards b.s. announcement to divert organizational resources away from the entertainment party circuit, and do more than issue a lame release on staph coverage, creating a misimpression that they are on top of the stigmatizing stories.
And speaking of slow responses in the second week of the staph story, five days after UCSF issued a public apology to the gay community for the offensive press release, and two days after the New York Times reported on the mea culpa, the San Francisco remains silent on the apology.
It doesn't surprise me in the least that the Chronicle can't be bothered to inform readers of the apology. That might lead to readers questioning the paper's role in promulgating the initial wave of crappy stories, and also asking this question of Chronicle reporters and editors: Why didn't you question the isolating of gays from the general population by UCSF?