Tuesday, March 30, 2010

HIV Panel Discusses
UCLA Math Model

The HIV Prevention Planning Council (HPPC), which is a joint CDC and SF DPH-mandated advisory panel, heard from me earlier this month regarding many unanswered questions related to UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine mathematician Sally Blower's model on HIV drug resistance in San Francisco.

The community engagement committee of the HPPC dealt with a few of my concerns at their March 2 meeting, which I wasn't able to attend. Here is what the minutes report transpired:

The committee was asked to present an e-mail and letter from someone in the public for public comment. His name is Michael Petrelis and he was unable to be present for today’s meeting. The co-chairs approved this e-mail and letter to be read as public comment.

Desmond read his e-mail and passed around copies of the letter. The e-mail referred to a recent report in Science on a study conducted by Dr. Sally Blower at UCLA.

There were some questions and comments from the members regarding this public comment. One member asked for more background information on the study. Tracey [Packer of the SF DPH division for HIV prevention] was able to give some context and explained more details to the group. Someone mentioned that there was discussion of this study and paper at the CROI Conference a few weeks ago.

A member asked if this same e-mail/letter was sent to the [Ryan White] Care Council. It was suggested that this may also be relevant for that group to discuss.

Someone also mentioned that Grant Colfax was interviewed by the Bay Area Reporter (BAR) about this subject recently.

Action item: Send around the BAR article mentioned above to all members of this committee.

Gabriel said he will bring today’s comments to the next Steering Committee Meeting (3/25).

I don't get the sense that the committee members put much, if any, stock in Blower and the hysteria from UCLA, do you? It pleases me that the committee was to look at the BAR story, to get a better understanding of this study and why it's being questioned. Also, kudos to the members for widening the discussion to include the CARE Council and steering committee of the HPPC.

I attended the monthly HPPC meeting on March 11, and again used public comment to put forward my concerns. From the minutes:

Michael Petrelis commented on Sally Blower’s study regarding drug resistance in San Francisco. He stated the study is not correct and asked the community to engage in a conversation regarding drug resistance and HIV. He mentioned that Bloomberg News published a new article today regarding drug resistance and HIV causing un-needed fear. It is not believed that San Francisco is creating drug resistance through HIV [transmission, but through many PWAs on cocktails develop resistance because of longterm use of the drugs]. Mike thanked Grant for commenting on the article and challenging Sally Blower’s study.

[HPPC co-chair Ben Hayes] stated that the Community Engagement Committee received Michael’s letter, and the committee will be discussing how to address the issue of Sally Blower’s study and the article in Bloomberg News.

I'm not sure how or when the HPPC will discuss the UCLA math model, and the needs of people with AIDS experiencing resistance, but I've been assured by panel members that the issues and complaints raised over the study will be considered in the next few months.

Keep in mind, regardless of my questions about UCLA's research, if there were great worry among community PWAs, SF DPH, AIDS Inc, and UCSF's assorted HIV institutes and the 35-40 employees and executives at those orgs who are members of the HPPC, the place that worry would be addressed is at the HPPC.

And based on the agendas and minutes from all of the HPPC meetings since January was Blower's study came out, I can safely say no one has stepped forward and endorsed UCLA's findings, or called for action based on Blower's hysteria.

The Blower math model and its controversies are not fading away.

1 comment:

Greg said...

The issues aren't fading away---in fact, a read of the minutes, the fact that they circulated the BAR article, etc., seem to indicate a that they are perplexed as how to proceed.

It's also nice to see that there is public comment allowed at your various planning bodies. Here is Wisconsin the State's HIV planning group does not allow for public comment at their meetings. Odd, isn't it? Planning and no opportunity for public comment.