Tuesday, March 02, 2010

UCLA HIV Modeler: Sorry Release
Caused Concern in SF

Late last week, in response to a request from Bevan Dufty, a gay member of the Board of Supervisors for the Castro neighborhood, UCLA mathematician Sally Blower finally answered his letter for communication about her confusing and stigmatizing HIV drug resistance model.

Blower's mistaken-laden letter shows a very defensive researchers, looking to blame everyone but herself for her troubles.

Notice that she takes no responsibility for the controversy she has created. Instead, she apologizes that the UCLA press release has generated bad feelings. Yes, the release is quite troubling, but the UCLA press officers can only work with whatever it is the researchers give them, and in this case, that means Blower and her team.

She also states that her decade-plus of modeling HIV drug resistance in San Francisco has "proven to be correct." Blower fails to include a single citation, from an independent source, backing up her claim. It's gonna take much more than mere words from this awful researcher to persuade me that her earlier predictions have become reality.

Additionally, she plays the victim card when discussing recent emails from Clinton Fein and myself. Clinton will have his own detailed response to Blower, later today, which I will link to.

No one has asked scientists to hold back or sugar-coat findings. What we are asking for is public discussion and clarification from the researchers, who are too comfortable throwing down controversial studies from an ivory tower, and drawing up the bridge over the moat, when critics demand accountability.

Furthermore, Blower maintains that her modeling results indicate more HIV testing is essential. Huh? Too bad her damn study says _nothing_ about this.

One the most laughable notions in Blower's letter is her new claim that there is no need for alarm because of her findings. Her study said:

"Consequently, currently circulating [AIDS drug]-resistant strains in San Francisco pose a great and immediate threat to global public health."

Sorry, you can't maintain that the current situation in San Francisco is a tremendous and immediate problem for worldwide health, and then back away from such an alarmist statement, almost two months later, when faced with continuing criticism.

Here is Blower's letter, mistakes and all:

Dear Mr. Dufty

First, let me thank you for your letter and apologize for my delay in responding but I have been traveling for the past two weeks.

I am responding to your letter on behalf of all the co-authors of our research article that was recently published in the journal Science. My co-authors are Dr. Robert Smith, Mr. Justin Okano, Dr. Jim Kahn & Ms. Erin Bodine. We are extremely sorry to hear that the UCLA press release has caused such concern. We wish to stress that the press release was written by the UCLA media person for HIV and was approved by the media team at UCSF.

I have spent much of my career on modeling the epidemic in San Francisco and the predictions that I have made, over the past ten years, concerning decreasing transmission and increasing levels of drug resistance have proven to be correct. The clinical aspects of my work, over the past decade, have been informed by my friend and colleague at UCSF, Dr. Jim Kahn. Jim works at the Positive Health Care Clinic at San Francisco General Hospital and has dedicated his 25+ years at UCSF to serve as an advocate for improving the health, science and public policy associated with the treatment of the HIV infected community in San Francisco. The majority of the patients that he cares for are members of the LGBT.

We understand that our research has generated strong feelings and emotions however science by its very nature can be controversial, and the press release did reflect the scientific findings in our article. Our major finding is that resistance to antiretrovirals is likely to rise in the next few years in San Francisco. Our findings are based on solid evidence and complex analyses of data collected in San Francisco. Before publication of our article it was thoroughly reviewed by the world’s top thought leaders and editors on the subject.

Both Jim and I have discussed our findings with Dr. Grant Colfax at the San Francisco Department of Public Health and we are all in agreement that there is no need for alarm. However my coauthors and I believe that our results indicate that more widespread and more frequent testing for HIV is essential. We hope that our results will both inform Public Health officials in San Francisco of the potential for an increase in drug resistance and build awareness in the community.

We strongly believe that scientists, clinicians and members of the HIV/AIDS communities need to work together to advance research, policy and the clinical care of people with HIV/AIDS. However to achieve these aims we do not believe that we should hold back enhancing the awareness of critical science because some individuals don’t feel comfortable with the findings. I have been extremely troubled by the emails that I have received from Mr. Petrelis and Mr. Clinton Fein as they have been extremely insulting to me both personally and professional. I have previously received such emails from Mr. Petrelis over the past decade and I am no longer willing to discuss any topics with him or with other any individuals who use the same approach. It is unproductive and divisive.

We respect you have concerns and questions and both Jim and I are happy to speak to you about the science. I can be reached at 310-794-3933 and Jim can be reached at 415-476-4082 x 408.

Sally Blower
Director of the Center for Biomedical Modeling & Professor of Biomathematics

No comments: