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,

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