Thursday, February 18, 2010

BAR: 'Science' Must Retract UCLA
PWA Drug-Resistance Study?

Permit me to add things up for UCLA researcher and mathematician Sally Blower (above), whose latest doomsday math model related to people with AIDS continues to generate controversy.

1) Dr. Grant Colfax, head of SF DPH's HIV prevention programs has criticized Blower's model in three very public ways. He's been quoted in the SF Chronicle and on the Bay Area Reporter blog expressing strong reservations, and he appeared at a town hall meeting on gay health last week to make more of the gay community aware of his concerns.

2) A Canadian study involving thousands of actual living PWAs, carried out over more than a decade, contradicts Blower's research and found "drastic declines" in drug resistance, and was reported by Liz Highleyman of the HIVandHepatitis site earlier this month.

3) SF Supervisor Bevan Dufty yesterday sent letter to Blower requesting a frank discussion with her about the study, UCLA sensationalistic press release and the impact both are having on the local community.

4) POZ magazine's web site, in the "Web Watch" section, links to Dufty letter, making more PWAs aware of the Blower study and the controversy surrounding it.

5) This blog has publicly held Blower to account, here and here, while also communicating to her and the UCLA press department that they need to address the various concerns coming from many quarters.

On top of all that, the BAR today editorializes on the Blower study, showing that the controversy is not going away and indeed is growing. From the BAR:

Now, the prestigious journal Science has published a paper by researchers at UCSF and UCLA, including James Kahn and Sally Blower, that predicts a "wave" of HIV drug resistant strains "will emerge over the next five years in San Francisco due to transmission from untreated individuals." [...]

It was not a study examining the actual levels of drug resistant HIV and rates of its transmission in San Francisco. Other studies that have been done looked at actual levels of transmission of drug resistant strains of HIV and found rates declining, not rising. [...]

Once again, gay men in San Francisco are being stigmatized using code words.

Thank you, Cynthia Laird, BAR editor, for pointing out this reality, which doesn't seem to intrude upon Blower's thinking. The BAR also says:

If the Blower and Kahn paper is correct, why aren't we seeing any real-time red flag problems in treating people? We're not seeing that here in San Francisco, or Los Angeles, or New York City, or in any city where these medications have been prescribed widely for at least 10 years and where there has been ample opportunity to transmit resistant virus and then face the problems associated with treating patients infected with the resistant virus. [...]

If Blower were not locked up her UCLA ivory tower, she might deign to address the concerns above, and all the other questions being raised from San Francisco. Finally, the BAR wants several steps taken to undo the damage from Blower and her math model:

Science should re-review the paper and consider retracting it. The authors at UCSF and UCLA should apologize for this shoddy research that can inflame homophobia andAIDSphobia.

If Blower could put aside her ego, recognize the mistakes she's made, acknowledge the anger of San Francisco health leaders, apologize for those mistakes, and finally begin a constructive dialogue, we could move on from the controversy.

What will it take for Blower to leave her ivory tower and engage in communication with us?

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