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.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Another revision from the UCSF press release:

“These multi-drug-resistant infections can affect men who have sex with men at body sites in which skin-to-skin contact occurs,” says Diep. “However, these same body sites can be infected by MRSA in other individuals as well, so it is not possible to determine from the study what role sexual transmission plays per se.” Regardless, a good scrubbing with soap and water may be the most effective way to prevent skin-to-skin contact transmission, including after sexual activities, Diep says.

So in other words: "These multi-drug-resistant infections can affect people who have sex at body sites in which skin-to-skin contact occurs."