Friday, March 19, 2010

Philly Edge: What Turmoil Over
UCLA HIV Math Model?

There's a stenographic piece of gay/AIDS journalism appearing today on the Edge Philadelphia web site, on the controversial HIV math model created by UCLA's Sally Blower that appeared in a January issue of Science magazine. Edge writer Annie Brown reports:

The study, released in Scientific Magazine earlier this year, found that these strains began to emerge in San Francisco, New York, Chicago, London and other rich-resource cities. [...] This study has raises serious concerns among those fighting to control the HIV/AIDS epidemic, because patients with the drug-resistant strain see little improvement in their health when provided antiretroviral drugs (or ARVs). [...]

Um, the study was published in Science, and as I far as I can determine, there is no publication called Scientific Magazine. Furthermore, Blower's study said absolutely nothing about drug resistant HIV strains in New York, Chicago or London. It was a Bloomberg News story in March, in which Blower alleged such strains were showing up in those three other cities.

All that aside, Edge Philadelphia and Brown omit mention of the steady drumbeat of criticism leveled against the study, the researcher and the UCLA press office that used alarm and stigma to publicize the study.

Since the study's publication, institutions such as the San Francisco Department of Public Health, the Bay Area Reporter and KPIX-TV have raised serious questions about the research.

We've also seen health writers Clinton Fein and Liz Highleyman express strong concerns regarding the findings, among other concerns. SF Supervisor Bevan Dufty has written to Blower, stating his issues related to the study and impact on the local gay and AIDS communities.

And Barbara French, UCSF's vice chancellor for communications, just a few weeks ago put great distance between her press office and the UCLA press office's handling of promoting the Blower study.

Yet, for Edge Philadelphia and its science writer, they couldn't be bothered to report on anything related to the two month of turmoil and controversy in San Francisco, from many entities and people, about the study and associated matters. This kind of stenographic report is a stain upon good journalism, and is a perfect example of how not to write about Blower, her HIV math modeling and drug resistance.

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