Tuesday, January 15, 2008

WTF? No SF DPH Release on
Latest 'Gays = Disease' Scare?

I've lost count of how many times I've seen this depressing drill about gay men, our sexuality, diseases, and researchers generating great headlines for their academic careers.
Here's how the drill goes. Scientists affiliated with the San Francisco Department of Public Health, or its partner the University of California at SF, hit the front-page of the SF Chronicle with an alarming story about a "new" infection afflicting gay men.
Sometimes, as with the story today on the multidrug resistant staph infection, there's a new study published in a scientific publication, but there have also been too times when data and research driving the latest scare when DPH and UCSF have not taken care to have their research and stats available on the web.
The gay community is given no heads-up from DPH/UCSF whatsoever that another frightening "gays spreading new deadly infection" is about to hit us. Engagement with the community is the farthest thing on the researchers' minds, along with the all the gays at DPH, starting with the director, Dr. Mitch Katz, and those who serve under him.
Translation: Business as usual for DPH. Just another scary STD-driven story smacking gay men in newspapers everywhere and DPH has nothing official to say.
If there's real reason for gays to be discussing the staph infection's virulence and spread, DPH should start with a news release, maybe a news conference, and start a public dialogue with gays.
DPH is monumentally uninterested in town hall meetings or any sort of substantive community outreach when these disease panic are launched against us.
But DPH/UCSF researchers achieve one of their main goals: Generate headlines that go round the world, leading to more research dollars and consulting gigs.
Keep the affected community informed and up-to-date on "new" infections, or the same old bad ones that may be of concern to public health officials, and treat gays who've been through much fear and terror about our lives and sexuality, with the respect we deserve from institutions that are supposedly "community-based" and "culturally competent"?
Sorry, that is not on the DPH/UCSF agenda and has not been an integral part of their exploitative relationships and collaborations with us, their guinea pigs and research subjects.
I'm not saying we shouldn't be concerned about the staph infection going round, but I can't take these scares all that seriously anymore, if I ever did since the alleged sub-Saharan surge of HIV infections in SF in 2000, and I fear many of my brothers long ago tuned out DPH/UCSF alarmist studies and statements.
We've heard the DPH/UCSF little pigs cry there's a wolf at the community's door before today, only to find it's more like a miniature poodle. If the wolf is back at our door, a news release and town hall meeting are needed.

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