Thursday, July 31, 2003

MIDYEAR S.F. STD/HIV REPORT: GONORRHEA DECLINES, HIV FLAT

I simply adore being the bearer of good news.

This week, amid the clamor of alarm and fear emanating from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's biennial HIV prevention conference, the San Francisco Department of Public Health quietly released its June monthly sexually transmitted disease report and the good news in it has been completely ignored by the media and AIDS groups. [1]

The best development in the report is the low, stable rate for overall HIV infections, especially for recent/new infections.

53 positive test results were reported at the midyear point in 2002, and 55 HIV positive results were recorded during the first six months of 2003. Sure, that's a slight increase, but, essentially this category is stable

For recent positives, using the STARHS, Serologic Testing Algorithm for Recent HIV Seroconversions, method, 21 results were documented for the first six months of 2002, and 21 results were reported for the first half of this year. Same number for the first six months, two years in row, is a level rate.

Number of HIV tests performed through the end of June 2002 was 1223, while there were 1273 tests through the end of June 2003.

The number of total gonorrhea diagnoses fell from 1127 cases in the first half of last year, while at the midyear point of 2003, the number was 835.

A key indicator of safe sex behavior among gay men, rectal gonorrhea cases, also declined. Total number through the end of June 2002: 161. For the first half of 2003, the number was 153 cases.

Both male oral gonorrhea and proctitis also dropped so far this year, compared to numbers from 2002, as did adult male shigellosis cases.

Syphilis cases rose from 291 during the first half of 2002, while so far for this year the number is 365.

So the number of new HIV infections in San Francisco is as flat as the state of Kansas and male gonorrhea continues to decline, particularly the male rectal rate, but these developments are not newsworthy and all HIV prevention groups remain silent about the drops.

And I have to wonder if the head of the San Francisco Department of Public Health, Dr. Mitch Katz, reads his own department's STD reports.

In the July 29 San Francisco Chronicle story about CDC claims of increasing HIV infections among gay men in 24 states, Katz stated: "We don't think new (HIV) infections are low, however. That's due to many things, including the increasing use of methamphetamines, Viagra and people recognizing that AIDS is no longer a death sentence." [2]

How Katz can say he doesn't believe new HIV infections are low, when the health department he runs reports flat new HIV infections, is beyond my comprehension.

As far as I am concerned, the new monthly STD report for America's AIDS model city, should be page one news and widely disseminated.

-
Sources:
1. http://www.dph.sf.ca.us/Reports/STD/STDMONTH.pdf

[If this link is broken, go to http://www.dph.sf.ca.us/Reports/HlthAssess.htm, then scroll down to the monthly STD reports.]

2. http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/2003/07/29/MN272065.DTL

Tuesday, July 29, 2003

GAGGING FROM THE ENDOSCOPY, WAITING FOR BIOPSY RESULTS

I used to think my big, fat Greek mouth could handle anything, that is until today's endoscopy at the California Pacific Medical Center was performed.

For two-plus months my stomach has been experiencing weird, unexplained painful knots that my regular doctor couldn't figure out what was causing the trouble.

In June, I had stomach x-rays performed, which showed mild diverticulitis in the intestines. To alleviate some of the problem, I started a regimen of acupuncture treatments and Chinese herbs that greatly relieved some of the pain. However, this didn't cure the cramps so my doctor had me see a GI specialist who ordered up this morning's endoscopy.

Groggy from little sleep late night, and no food, I registered for the procedure. My mind flashed on to gay French director's Patrice Chereau's latest film, "His Brother," which is about a gay brother who helps his straight brother die after he's diagnosed with a platelet deficiency disease. Getting prepped for the procedure brought back images of the dying brother's grueling visits to a Paris hospital and the concerned nurses who tend to him.

Laying on the gurney, a nurse injected two painkillers into the IV hose in my right arm and I got high. Even under the influence of the drugs, the GI specialist still had difficulty getting the tube with the miniature camera down my throat. Gagging, I took a deep breath and the tube finally slid past my throat and down into my stomach.

When the painkillers wore off slightly, the GI specialist came to talk to me.

"We found some polyps that were removed and will be biopsied," he explained. "Avoid aspirin, Advil and Motrin until we get the results back."

Not the news I wanted to hear.

"What's causing the trouble? HIV? The meds for HIV, or something else entirely?" I asked.

"I don't know," he replied. "I'll call your doctor and talk to him. You should see him this week, and I want you back in my office in August."

He prescribed a new medicine to add to my already large daily cocktail.

Am I worried about this latest physical ailment and what the biopsies may reveal? Yes, and with good reason.

My t-cells haven't been above 100 in over a year. They fell down to two this spring. I named them Ringo and Paul and told them to multiply, which they did recently. I now have 73 t-cells, according to my latest blood tests. My viral load, which has been over 250,000 all year, is at 500,000.

All these numbers floated around my head as I waited for my boyfriend Mike to come pick me up and take me home. He embraced me in the waiting room, kissed my lips and asked how it went. His response to my gagging problem?

"You are the last man I'd expect to have trouble opening wide enough for that little tube," he said, and both of us laughed.

We took a cab home. What did I find waiting for me in the kitchen? A big bowl of fruit, fresh filtered water and a wedge of a marijuana-laced brownie, to help ease the stomach knots.

"Now, remember today is the last day for the Sarunas Bartas retrospective at the Pacific Film Archives in Berkeley, and after you take a nap, I want you to get on BART and go see the film tonight," Mike said. "It would do you good to catch a Lithuanian film at the PFA."

He went off to work and I thanked God for blessing my life with Mike as my partner, of eight years and counting, and for making sure a Sarunas Bartas film is playing tonight. Small stuff in the grand scheme of things, but despite the low t-cells, a viral load that won't decline, continuing intestinal troubles, I'm grateful for the good people in my life and true happiness.

Let's hope the biopsies are benign. And that Ringo and Paul continue to clone themselves into new t-cells for me.

Thursday, July 17, 2003

S.F. EXAMINER MISTAKES IN MIKE SALINAS OBIT


July 17, 2003

[This email sent to: jdineen@examiner.com, letters@examiner.com, newstips@examiner.com.]


Editor
San Francisco Examiner
San Francisco, CA

Dear Editor:

I am deeply saddened by the news that Mike Salinas, former editor for the Bay Area Reporter, has passed away in New York. I knew Salinas from when he was a reporter at the New York Native and viewed him as a fine writer, editor and, at times, a friend.

However, in your July 17 story about his death, several mistakes are made in regard to the death of gay sailor Allan Schindler that demand correcting.

You reported that Schindler was murdered in Yokosuka, Japan, which is not true. He was killed in Sasebo, Japan, which is where his ship was stationed.

Here is an excerpt from Karen Ocamb's March 1999 article in Genre magazine about Schindler's death and the larger controversy of gays in the military, that should clear up your confusion about where his death took place.

"Schindler's story, a kind of naval Matthew Shepard murder, bears recalling since his convicted killer is up for regular clemency reviews and the made-for-TV movie left out the hard work of gay activists such as Michael Petrelis. Schindler was a closeted sailor aboard USS Belleau Wood who was being harassed by homophobic shipmates. In late October 1992, he was found murdered in a public restroom near his base in Sasebo, Japan. His head and face were so bashed in his mother couldn't recognize him. Sailors Charles Vins and Terry Helvey were arrested. In early November 'the Navy cut a sweetheart deal with Vins. In exchange for testimony against Helvey, Vins was quietly sentenced to four months in jail,' Petrelis recalls.

"As Schindler's mother, Dorothy Hadjys, became suspicious of the Navy, Petrelis started asking questions. In December he held a news conference on the steps of the Pentagon to condemn Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney for covering up the gay aspects of the case. That led to media coverage. On the eve of Clinton's inauguration Petrelis organized a candlelight vigil for Schindler at the Sailor's Memorial in Washington, D.C., with other vigils held elsewhere.

"As the gays-in-the-military debate heated up in early March of 1993, the Pentagon leaked rumors that Schindler was in the restroom cruising for sex and that he and Helvey were jealous gay lovers. Fearing the cruising angle, many gay leaders refrained from speaking out. In late May, the trial finally concluded.

"'Helvey received life in military jail and tearfully apologized to Dorothy in court for killing her son. It was a wrenching thing to witness, and it still gives me goosebumps,' Petrelis recalls." [Source: http://www.davidclemens.com/gaymilitary/0399genre.htm ]

Also, you incorrectly claim that "Salinas sent a reporter to Japan to cover the story." I was the only gay American who traveled to Japan to investigate the death of Schindler, demand justice for him, and attend the court martial of his killer. My role in helping bring attention to the Schindler case was that of an activist, and one of the editors who paid attention to my concerns about the case was Salinas, who gave the story the coverage it deserved.

The Bay Area Reporter did not send a reporter to cover the trial, and anyone who knows the paper's owner, Bob Ross, knows he is tightwad who would never have footed the bill to send a reporter to Japan.

The loss of Salinas is tragic. He will be remembered by me and many others as decent, upstanding man who righted wrongs in his capacity as an editor and reporter.

I will miss him. May Salinas rest in peace.

Sincerely,
Michael Petrelis
2215-R Market Street, #413
San Francisco, CA 94114
Ph: 415-621-6267

-


San Francisco Examiner
17-JUL-03

Gay activist-journalist dies
By J.K. Dineen
Of The Examiner Staff
jdineen@examiner.com

Mike Salinas, a former hard-charging Bay Area Reporter writer and editor
who was a central player in many of the San Francisco gay community's
great controversies of the 1990s, died Tuesday in New York City. He was
46.

Police ruled the death an accidental heroin overdose, but a preliminary
coroner's report suggests he may have died of a heart attack, family
members said. His partner, Brian Carmichael, found him at 7:30 in the
morning at his apartment on East 28th Street, curled up on the floor
next to his bed.

For more than two decades, Salinas stirred things up on the vanguard of
the nation's gay politics. In the early 1980s he wrote for the New York
Native and the Village Voice and was first writer to do a major piece on
the radical group Act Up.

At the Bay Area Reporter, he was probably best known for a stark
front-page above-the-fold August 13, 1998, headline, which read, "No
Obits." The story explained that for the first time in 17 years, the
newspaper did not have a single AIDS-related obituary that week.

"It doesn't mean that there is no AIDS," Salinas told the Associated
Press at the time. "What it does mean is that people with AIDS are
living longer and that we're smarter about the human immune system."

"That was really powerful," said current editor Cynthia Laird. "I
remember waiting until our final deadline at 5 o'clock to make sure none
came in."

Ironically, it is Salinas' obituary that will run on the front page of
today's B.A.R., Laird said.

"Everyone has just been stunned here," said Laird on Wednesday evening.

Throughout his career, Salinas investigated AIDS organizations he
thought were corrupt and took on nonprofit executives he felt were
overpaid. As an editor, he directed his reporters to explore the
finances of the AIDS Ride and the AIDS Foundation, organizations he felt
we mismanaged and top-heavy.

"That is something that he really pushed for, mainly because he wanted
to money to go to client services," said Laird.

Salinas believed in a crusading brand of advocacy journalism. In the
early 1990s, he pushed aggressive coverage of the murder of Allen
Schindler, a gay sailor killed in Yokosuka, Japan. The case received
national attention because it coincided with debate over President
Clinton's "don't ask, don't tell" policy about gays in the military.
Salinas sent a reporter to Japan to cover the story.

Eight years ago, he wrote a story on sexual abuse in the church. The
headline was "Catholic Church Fails to Finger Fondlers."

"So many time Mike has stood up and taken unpopular stand and withstood
the heat and time would go by and he was right on the money," said
Carmichael.

His relationship with Carmichael, whom he lived with during his final
years, started out as professional one. Carmichael was one of several
prisoners with AIDS at the California Medical Facility in Vacaville who
went on a hunger strike in 1992 to protest the lack of medical services
there. The hunger strike lead to the first-ever hospice inside a state
prison and forced prisons across the nation to confront HIV/AIDS.

Carmichael credited Salinas with keeping the story in the public eye.

"When I got out of prison, I went to the B.A.R. in San Francisco because
it was the paper that kept the story moving," he said. "I wanted to
thank the editor on behalf of thousands of prisoners."

Salinas was born in Iowa and his parents broke up when his father
announced he was gay. Salinas lived in foster homes for a while before
moving to New York. His father, Rick Salinas, lives in San Francisco and
owns an art gallery in Hayes Valley.

Despite big-city aspirations and lifestyle, he remained proud of his
humble Iowa roots, wearing an Iowa Hawkeye jacket, chastising friends
for littering, and disdaining the affectations of the intellectual
circles he ran in.

"He was practically inseparable from that jacket," said Teddy
Witherington, the director of Pride and an old friend.

But Salinas was more than an activist-journalist. His other great love
was theater -- especially musicals -- and it was Broadway that lured him
back to New York in 1999, after seven years at the Reporter.

Erik Haagensen, a senior copy editor at Back Stage magazine in New York,
where Salinas worked in 1999 and 2000, said Salinas hoped to produce
musicals. During the 1980s, he had been a founding editor of Theater
Week magazine.

"Every theater queen, myself included, bought Theater Week every week to
read him," said Haagensen.

But regaining the prominence that he had enjoyed as a young man in New
York was not easy. He struggled with his writing and his job at the Back
Stage was short-lived.

"The return to New York was not all he had hoped it would be," said
Haagensen. "He felt he had not managed to re-establish himself in
theater journalism or gay journalism in ways he had previously
established himself."

Friend Jim Provenzano, who writes a sports column for the Bay Area
Reporter, said Salinas had recently admitted that he was experimenting
with heroin. Provenzano speculated that after 9/11 and a challenging
return to New York, Salinas was struggling.

"He was not as tough he people thought," he said. "You can make your
mark in New York, but as soon as you leave you are forgotten."

But others say his final days were in fact happy. He had recently been
editor of the 2003 Pride guide and was looking forward to editing again
next year.

"It's sometimes hard to remember, but we are the lucky ones," he wrote
in his Pride Guide editors letter.

Wednesday, July 16, 2003

GAY LEADER DONATES TO ANTI-GAY MARRIAGE POLITICIANS


[This email sent to: eb@hrc.org, david.smith@hrc.org, mark.shields@hrc.org.]


July 16, 2003

Elizabeth Birch
Human Rights Campaign
Washington, DC

Dear Ms. Birch:

One of the most important issues for your organization and the gay community is securing equal marriage rights for gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender individuals.

The Human Rights Campaign's survey of Democratic presidential hopefuls shows that two of the leading candidates, former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean and Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, oppose equal marriage rights for the gay community. [Source: http://www.hrc.org/campaigns/2004/candidates/quest_summary.pdf .]

So I was quite dismayed and shocked to learn that you have personally donated money to them.

According to Federal Election Commission records, on September 30, 2002, you donated $1,000 to Dean's presidential campaign, on April 25, 2002, you contributed $1,000 to Kerry's senatorial reelection bid. [Source: http://www.tray.com ]

When you write a check to presidential candidates who are against full access to the institution of marriage for our community, in my opinion, you send a message that it's acceptable to oppose our right to marry and still receive funds from the leader of America's largest political organization.

I ask that you request a refund from Dean and Kerry, to show them that until they come out and endorse equal marriage rights for our community, they won't receive any donations from you.

Anything less delivers a mixed message to candidates who aspire to the White House.

Please have Dean and Kerry immediately return your donation to their presidential and senatorial campaigns.

Regards,
Michael Petrelis
2215-R Market Street, #413
San Francisco, CA 94114
PH: 415-621-6267

Saturday, July 12, 2003

CDC says IDU HIV rate "leveled;" Reuters says rate "rose"


A new HIV study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was released on July 11, rife with findings about either declines or a leveling of new HIV infections detected among injection drug users (IDUs).

Published in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, the study’s “findings indicate that HIV diagnoses among IDUs have leveled in the majority of demographic groups during this period [1994—2000] in the 25 states for which HIV surveillance data are available.” [1]

The CDC study found that “IDU-related HIV diagnoses declined from 4,226 case in 1994 to 2,403 cases in 1999, and leveled to 2,514 …[in] 2000.”

In terms of raw numbers, that’s an increase of diagnoses, but, for epidemiologic purposes, the researchers deem the statistics to have leveled.

Broken down by gender, male IDU diagnoses “declined 44%, from 2,819 in 1994 to 1,568 in 1999, and leveled to 1,628 in 2000,” while the rate for female IDU diagnoses “declined 41% from 1,407 in 1994 to 835 in 199, and leveled to 886 in 2000.”

I found it fascinating that the researchers qualified marginal increases as a leveling, not a rise, per se.

The editorial note accompanying the MMWR article said the “finding of overall declines in new HIV infections among IDUs in the 25 states with HIV infection reporting is consistent with studies that suggest a decline in new HIV infections among IDUs in other areas of the United States.”

The CDC study provided a citation for this claim, and I located the abstract from another study from which the citation came.

The earlier study, published in the American Journal of Public Health, titled “HIV incidence among injection drug users in New York City, 1992-1997: evidence for a declining epidemic,” made the following conclusion.

“The recent incidence rate in New York City is quite low for a high-seroprevalence population of injection drug users. The very large HIV epidemic among injection drug users in New York City appears to have entered a ‘declining phase,’ characterized by low incidence and declining prevalence. The data suggest that very large high-seroprevalence HIV epidemics may be ‘reversed,’” it noted. [2]

Many reasons are likely responsible for the drop reported in the CDC study.

“Because the peak of infections occurred in the early 1990s, the decline during the late 1990s might reflect the natural decline in the epidemiologic curve following the peak in the epidemic, which often is observed after the onset of a disease in a population,” and might be one of the factors behind the decreases, stated the MMWR.

In other words, HIV transmissions hit a high among injection-drug users a decade ago. This is good news in my estimation.

What could be responsible for the slight numerical increases in 2000? The answer may lie at the end of the following sentence from the study.

“The leveling of IDU-related HIV diagnoses during 1999—2000 for the majority of demographic groups might represent a plateau in IDU-related HIV diagnoses or changes in testing behavior among IDUs.”

Translation: more IDUs may have sought out HIV testing services and taken an HIV antibody test.

Indeed, the MMWR states: “Although testing patterns can change the number and trends of new diagnoses, surveillance methods being developed by CDC will enable estimation of patterns in HIV-infection incidence.”

Even taking into account variations in testing patterns, this new CDC study and the declines or level rates contained therein cannot be dismissed, and, in my opinion, should be characterized as a positive development in containing HIV.

But despite the repeated use of the words declines, decreases and leveled, it did not stop the Reuters news wire from putting out a story about the study with this headline: “HIV diagnoses rise among intravenous drug users in US.” [3]

Reuters reporter Paul Simao wrote, “The number of new HIV diagnoses among intravenous drug users in the United States rose in 2000, halting five years of steady declines, according to a federal study released on Thursday.”

Not once in his story did Simao note how the CDC study defined the incremental increases of HIV rates for IDUs as leveling.

Simao’s Reuters story did note one of the CDC researchers “said the increases in diagnoses could have resulted from expanded AIDS [sic] testing or a change in risk behavior among intravenous drug users.” However, Reuters should have provided a larger context in its wire story about the overall leveling of HIV diagnoses in this population.

This new study comes one year after the CDC released another study on overall HIV diagnoses in 25 states, in which the authors reported similar good news.

“The number of persons in whom HIV infection without AIDS was the initial diagnosis declined 21% (from 15,945 in 1994 to 12,612 in 2000), and the number of persons in whom HIV infection with AIDS was the initial diagnosis declined 31% (from 5,760 in 1994 to 3,987 in 2000). However, during 1998--2000, the number of diagnosed cases of HIV infection with and without AIDS remained constant,” stated the July 12, 2002, article in the MMWR. [4]

Last year’s study also found that data “from national surveys and publicly funded counseling and testing sites indicate that testing rates have remained relatively unchanged during the late 1990s.”

This means that the number of initial HIV diagnoses declined, while the number of tests performed stayed constant, so the HIV rate didn’t drop because of a decrease in antibody tests administered.

Not only do we have two CDC studies documenting significant decreases or a leveling of new HIV diagnoses nationally, we also have the San Francisco Department of Public Health’s recent monthly sexually transmitted disease report showing declines of new HIV diagnoses. [5]

Too bad these developments aren’t widely reported in either the mainstream or gay press, but that lack of press coverage won’t deter me from sharing the good news about declining HIV diagnoses, if and when I find it.

Sources:

1. http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5227a2.htm
2. http://www.ajph.org/cgi/content/abstract/90/3/352
3. http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/N10174862.htm
4. http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5127a3.htm
5. http://www.dph.sf.ca.us/Reports/STD/STDMONTH.pdf


Tuesday, July 01, 2003

MAY S.F. STD REPORT: HIV, GONORRHEA RATES FALL; SYPHILIS UP


Three years ago this week, San Francisco Department of Public Health HIV experts exclaimed with alarm to the New York Times that the AIDS plague was resurgent, not just here, but possibly in many other urban areas, and all the fears were based on slender increases in HIV antibody testing, especially the rates involving a new test to detect recent HIV transmissions.

On July 1, 2000, Lawrence K. Altman reported in a page one, above-the-fold story that a
“small but sharp rise in new infections with the virus that causes AIDS has been detected among gay men in San Francisco over the last three years . . . [and that the] rise was detected by using a new test developed by the C.D.C. that allows health workers to distinguish between recent H.I.V. infections and those that were acquired months to years ago.”

Altman explained to readers that the new test “strategy involves testing the infected blood twice, using both a sensitive and less sensitive method . . . [and that the] test is becoming a powerful new tool for epidemiologists tracking the AIDS epidemic, health officials said.” [1]

Three years on, that “powerful new tool” shows incredibly low levels of recent HIV infections in America’s AIDS model city, and Altman and editors at the Times yawn. If Altman were to revisit the story he wrote in 2000, particularly his first sentence about the “sharp rise,” his opening this year might be, “A small but sharp drop in new infections with the virus that causes AIDS has been detected among gay men in San Francisco over the last two years.”

By the way, the test Altman refers to is known as STARHS, the Serologic Testing Algorithm for Recent HIV Seroconversions, and when the SF DPH monthly STD reports cite recent new HIV infections, the department is referring to this testing method.


CURRENT HIV STATS

The latest monthly sexually transmitted disease summary from the SF DPH, for May, reports essentially flat or slightly declining rates of new HIV infections.

Let’s start with what I consider to be the most noteworthy numbers, for the two categories of HIV tests performed.

Total number of regular HIV antibody positive test results at City Clinic at the end of May 2002 was 48, while for this year the figure thus far is 45. I consider this a minor decrease, while many statisticians would characterize it as stable. In any case, it’s good news.

The statistics for recent HIV positive infections, using the STARHS method, are even better. Last May there were 20 for the year; while so far this year the number has gone up to only 16. [2]

And bear in mind that these drops come at a time when the number of HIV tests performed is going up. Last year for this period, 1047 tests were administered, while so far for this year there have been 1072 performed.

Furthermore, if you want to look at the monthly HIV infection rates in a larger context, take a gander at this slide, http://hivinsite.ucsf.edu/InSite?page=md-rr-17-sl&ss=xsl/sl-doc&slide=7, which is from the SF DPH, and presented on a University of California at San Francisco web site.

You’ll see that at anonymous testing sites, for gay males, the incidence rate was at a high of 4.2% in 1999, and fell to 3.9% during 2000, the year San Francisco was allegedly going through sub-Saharan levels of new HIV transmissions.

So we have hints of declines of overall HIV tests results and recent HIV infections detected with STAHRS, in a city supposedly in the throes of sub-Saharan levels of new HIV transmissions, and what do health advocacy groups have to say? Literally nothing.

The SF DPH and HIV/AIDS organizations have a responsibility to analyze the monthly STD reports and offer reasons why there appears to be a small, but sustained decline underway, but no one in the AIDS industry in this town is speaking about the most recent summaries and what they may mean for controlling and preventing new infections.

The silence from SF DPH and AIDS groups is, I believe, an indication of how they don’t use epidemiologic reports and data in more honestly communicating with the public, and they should utilize such data with a wide audience concerns about sexually transmitted infections.
GONORRHEA

According to the latest STD report, the rates for gonorrhea are falling even more dramatically. Through May of last year, total number of all gonorrhea cases was 951. The number for the comparable period this year is only 701.

Male rectal and oral gonorrhea infections, along with male proctitis, until the end of May 2003, are all slumping, when stacked up against last year’s numbers through May.

All of the San Francisco gonorrhea declines come amid similar drops elsewhere across the country.

The latest national gonorrhea statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveal there were 164,409 cumulative cases at this point in time in 2003, and the number for the current year shows just 144,073 diagnoses. [3]

Let’s do a little math here on the San Francisco numbers. Adding up all the male cases of assorted gonorrhea infections so far this year, it comes to 328. That’s out of 701 total cases for the city.

The remaining infections, 623, were among females. More than half of all gonorrhea cases here are in the female population, yet no breakdown of gonorrhea cases among women is presented in the May STD report and such information has never been presented in the monthly summaries.

Which makes me wonder: Why does the SF DPH omit data on female gonorrhea infections broken down vaginally, orally and anally?

It boggles my mind that in politically correct San Francisco, the health department has for years gotten away with focusing only on the male cases of gonorrhea in monthly reports, even though women have been contracting the infection in far greater numbers than men. This must change, and the department should contain a table about female gonorrhea infections in monthly STD summaries.

The reason behind the omission may be that there’s simply more of emphasis on men, particularly gay men, in the monthly reports, because we keep the department in federal grants worth millions annually, and in the news with never-ending studies and stories on our sex lives and the STDs that afflict us. But I also can’t overlook how sexism could be the root reason why SF DPH simply fails to provide any hard numbers on female gonorrhea diagnoses.


SHIGELLA AND SYPHILIS

Remember the alarming stories about the outbreak of adult male shigellosis among gay men in San Francisco back in 2000? The rise in shigella cases was all over the news, as were SF DPH officials, sounding the alarm about this new health problem for gay men. There was also an article in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report in October 2001 about this problem. “During June--December 2000, 230 cases of culture-confirmed [shigella] infection were reported to the San Francisco Department of Public Health,” noted the MMWR. [4]

Number of adult male shigellosis diagnoses last year through May was 58. This year, so far, cases have plummeted to 40.

Might be too much trouble to congratulate the gay male community for containing and reducing shigella rates. Same goes for widely informing us of this healthy decline.

Need I add that there’s no data on female cases of shigella in the monthly summary? Even if there are zero such cases, I think the SF DPH has a responsibility to report zeros, if and when they exist.

Syphilis is surging, according to the newest raw numbers. By the conclusion of May 2002, 238 cases were reported. Through May of this year, it’s jumped to 313.

Yes, reported syphilis cases are up. However, I do wonder if the increase in cases has anything to do with the widespread upswing in number of syphilis tests performed on more populations. Unfortunately, the SF DPH does not release the number of syphilis tests performed, so we don’t know if increased testing has contributed to more infections being detected.


CONCLUSION

Accept, just for argument’s sake, that public health officials at the local and federal levels must and will sound an alarm over shigella outbreaks, syphilis increases and indications of an HIV surge, bringing about tremendous news media coverage.

But that shouldn’t preclude the health experts from publicizing drops in infections, explaining decreases and devising plans with the gay community to keep the rates going downward.

Superior and effective public health policies require an ongoing discussion of STD and HIV, preferably without so much alarm, and a full acknowledgment from health officials and private sector groups when the numbers show decreases or stabilization.

And the press, most particularly the New York Times, should be reporting on new STD and HIV data from San Francisco, now that certain numbers are down.


Sources:


1. http://www.nytimes.com/library/national/science/health/070100hth-sf-aids.html
2. http://www.dph.sf.ca.us/Reports/STD/STDMONTH.pdf
3. http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5225md.htm
4. http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5042a3.htm

-
Donations, large and small, to support my work are gratefully accepted. Send checks to:
Michael Petrelis, 2215-R Market Street, #413, San Francisco, CA 94114.

Monday, June 23, 2003

CDC TO EVALUATE HIV PREVENTION GROUPS


June, Gay Pride Month, is the perfect time of year for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to publicly commit to assessing its myriad HIV prevention programs, especially those targeting gay men.

Atlanta’s Southern Voice newspaper on June 20 ran a balanced story by reporter Christopher Seely about CDC’s recent letter to Rep. Mark Souder spelling out the agency’s development of “plans to periodically review all grantees to assess their effectiveness,” and continuing complaints the Congressman and I have raised about the Stop AIDS Project.

One quote in Seely’s excellent article, from Jimmy Loyce, the head of the San Francisco Department of Public Health’s AIDS Office, reveals how for many people who work in AIDS Inc, the issue foremost on their minds is increased funding.

Loyce, in response to my demands for proof of effectiveness from the Stop AIDS Project to actually halt new HIV infections and other sexually transmitted diseases, said: “Until the federal government – without reducing the dollars to prevention services – is willing to pay for long term studies to determine the impact of HIV incidence and prevalence as a result of our prevention strategies, it is an unfounded mandate for them to say we need to do some long term studies of our own.”

I must point out that the University of California at San Francisco’s Centers for AIDS Prevention Studies receives millions of federal dollars annually to design, implement and assess HIV prevention programs and messages. But even with millions in government grants, UCSF’s CAPS is unable to produce hard, verifiable evidence showing the effectiveness not only of the Stop AIDS Project, but also of the other HIV prevention efforts in CAPS’s own backyard.

In my opinion, it should be a relative snap for the SF DPH and CAPS to whip out tons of documentation proving the effectiveness of Geezer Balls, HIV bowling leagues, trips to the zoo, flirting classes, etc., but they can’t, so Loyce and his ilk try to divert attention from current HIV and STD epidemiologic reports showing increasing rates and instead call for additional dollars for more studies.

Why no one in the SF DPH AIDS Office or at UCSF CAPS has thought to prove the effectiveness of the Stop AIDS Project and similar groups illustrates how little thought they have given to determining the efficacy of HIV prevention programs.

There is nothing objectionable to Souder and I calling on the CDC and its grantees to prove their HIV prevention workshops and messages are working.

Gay men in San Francisco should have been asking the CDC a long time ago for honest, scientific evaluations of the Stop AIDS Project and all such groups that target us.

Here’s Seely’s article from Southern Voice.
- - -


http://www.sovo.com/2003/6-20/news/national/

June 20, 2003
Southern Voice
Atlanta, GA


CDC threatens funding for Calif. AIDS program
Activist, congressman question effectiveness of Stop AIDS in San Francisco

By CHRISTOPHER SEELY



In an apparent about-face, the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention in Atlanta sent a letter June 13 to San Francisco’s Stop AIDS Project cautioning the group to comply with federal funding guidelines that do not permit recipients to promote sexual activity.

If the group does not comply, CDC will pull its funding, according to the letter.

The letter Stop AIDS received provided three specific examples of programs targeted at gay men that violated the federal Public Health Service Act, which does not allow funding to “be used to provide education or information designed to promote or encourage, directly, homosexual or heterosexual activity.”

Separate letters also went to the San Francisco Department of Public Health, which oversees activities at Stop AIDS, and to Rep. Mark Souder (R-Ind.), who since 2001 has funneled a steady stream of complaints filed by a gay AIDS activist about Stop AIDS through his office to the CDC.

“We are very pleased that the CDC will finally begin routinely assessing federal HIV prevention programs to ensure that they are effective in preventing HIV and STDs and comply with federal laws,” Roland Foster, an aide to Souder, said this week.

But the letter to Souder, signed by CDC Director Dr. Julie Gerberding, contradicts a letter she sent to him four months ago that supported the programs at Stop AIDS. The letter sent in February stated that Stop AIDS prevention techniques were “in compliance” with current guidelines.

Souder and Michael Petrelis, the controversial AIDS activist who alerted Souder to Stop AIDS’ programs, believe the effectiveness of current HIV prevention methods need to be assessed.

But Stop AIDS and the San Francisco Public Health Department contend that the CDC fell prey to pressure from a heightened conservative political environment that is taking aim at HIV and STD prevention organizations that frankly address gay sex.

“It is clear that this is not a political climate that supports an honest, open, and realistic discussion of sex, particularly sex between gay men, and it is having a chilling effect on the kind of research and grassroots organizing that is being done,” said Shana Krochmal, spokesperson for Stop AIDS.


Too sexy for the feds
The CDC letters cited workshops titled “In Our Prime: Men for Hire,” for older men to learn safety tips when dealing with escorts, “Bootylicious,” a discussion on ways to improve anal sex and be safe, and “Oral Sex = Safe Sex?” for men to acquire new information on oral sex.

“We don’t think we are promoting sex,” said Krochmal, spokesperson for Stop AIDS. “We are providing a forum for men who have already chosen to be sexually active.”

But the CDC did not object to the content of the workshops, just the way Stop AIDS marketed the programs with titles that promote sexual activity, said Kathy Harben, CDC spokesperson.

“We’re not saying it can’t be discussed at all, but it can’t be designed to promote sexual activity,” Harben said.
Harben declined to go into specifics about how the titles appeared to violate the law.

Souder’s office did not comment directly on the three controversial programs, instead saying that Stop AIDS has not proven its effectiveness because HIV infection rates are increasising despite the increased amount of funding for HIV prevention.

The San Francisco Department of Public Health stands by Stop AIDS’ marketing strategies and claims the sexy titles encourage participation from a younger generation being infected with HIV at higher rates.

The CDC should not consider the racy programs when applying federal law because none of the three workshops in question are funded with CDC money, according to Krochmal and Jimmy Loyce, deputy director of health for AIDS programs in San Francisco’s public health department.

City and state funds pay for the three programs that cost about $1,500, Loyce said.

The CDC grants an estimated $600,000 both directly and through the city to Stop AIDS for HIV prevention every year, Krochmal said.


Politics at play?
The current funding threat to Stop AIDS follows an investigation launched last summer to evaluate the scientific merit of Stop AIDS, and a 2001 report by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services that said Stop AIDS’ programs could be construed to encourage sexual activity and to be “obscene.”

Gerberding launched the investigation last year partly in response to complaints received about Stop AIDS’ HIV educational sessions, she wrote in a letter to Stop AIDS then.

At the time, Petrelis, who lives in San Francisco and is HIV-positive, had been lodging complaints about Stop AIDS for years with HHS, CDC, and the U.S. House of Representatives’ Subcommittee On Criminal Justice, Drug Policy & Human Resources. Souder chairs the subcommittee, according to Foster, his spokesperson.

Souder, named by critics as a leader in the conservative movement against Stop AIDS, followed procedure and began forwarding Petrelis’ complaints to HHS and CDC when Petrelis grabbed Souder’s attention in 2001, according to Foster.

The investigation last year, though, found Stop AIDS to be compliant with federal guidelines and the programs “based on current accepted behavioral science theories in the area of health promotion,” Gerberding wrote in a Feb. 13 letter to Souder.

But Stop AIDS contends officials at the CDC buckled under political pressure and compromised scientific integrity because of the repeated requests by Souder’s office to demand further proof of the group’s effectiveness even after Gerberding’s initial analysis.

“The science in question is being subjected to a number of political tests,” Krochmal said. “We don’t want to be in a position to choose between federal funding and being true to the community and what they need out of an HIV prevention agency.”

CDC remains committed to ensuring the efficacy and compliance of federally funded HIV programs, but politics do come into play when making decisions, Harben said.

“It’s a fact that elected officials are also an audience of ours,” she said. “We consider their concerns as we consider other concerns brought to our attention, but the CDC remains committed to science.”


Effective measure?
The day Souder received his letter from Gerberding was a landmark in the history of HIV prevention because it shows the federal government questioning the effectiveness of HIV prevention organizations, according to Petrelis, an activist known for his frequent criticisms of AIDS organizations.

“It’s year 22 of the AIDS epidemic and the CDC is finally developing plans to measure effectiveness,” he said.

The most recent letter to Souder assured him that the CDC is “developing plans to periodically review all grantees to assess their effectiveness.”

Petrelis looks at the steps being taken by CDC as a way to hold AIDS groups accountable for the funds they receive, and not as a threat.

“I don’t believe asking the CDC for proof of effectiveness with these groups should be in any way detrimental to them,” he said. “Gay men should be asking the CDC for proof since so many of their programs affect us.”

The federal government, not Stop AIDS, is responsible for providing the in-depth analysis that Souder and Petrelis demand, Loyce said.

“Until the federal government — without reducing the dollars to prevention services — is willing to pay for long term studies to determine the impact of HIV incidence and prevalence as a result of our prevention strategies, it is an unfunded mandate for them to say we need to do some long term studies of our own,” he said.


‘Whisper campaign’
Federal grants to research HIV prevention efforts might be hindered by a recent government “whisper campaign” to weed out grant proposals that use “key words” identified by scientists in the New York Times in April, according to Dr. Kenneth Haller, president of the Gay & Lesbian Medical Association.

The New York Times article reported that several researchers who would not reveal their names received instructions from officials with the CDC and the National Institutes of Health to avoid “key words” on grant applications that include “men who sleep with men” and “anal sex.”

“There is no paper trail, no e-mails or directives from government agencies,” Haller said. “It is purely a whisper campaign, which makes it much more dangerous.”

HHS denies the allegations made by the scientists.

“There is no such effort,” said Bill Pierce, spokesperson for the federal agency.

Tuesday, June 17, 2003

HHS/CDC PROBES HIV PREVENTION IN S.F.


It does appear as though my letter to HHS Inspector General Janet Rehnquist has prompted HHS to query CDC about my concerns regarding five year’s worth of federal grants to the SF Department of Public Health for effective HIV prevention efforts.

If anyone wants to know why I want HHS and CDC to audit how SF DPH has used $86 million over five years for HIV prevention, surveillance and testing, it’s simple: The federal government must once and for all prove that the HIV prevention programs it funds in San Francisco are indeed stopping AIDS.

If they are, then where’s the verifiable proof of effectiveness. On the other hand, if the HIV prevention messages and workshops aren’t effective, then we need to examine why they are failing.

Let’s hope the CDC responds to HHS about my concerns with 30 days.
- - -


June 13, 2003

Michael Petrelis
2215-R Market Street, #413
San Francisco, CA 94114

Dear Mr. Petrelis:

This is in response to your letter to the Office of Inspector General (OIG) requesting an audit of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) HIV/AIDS prevention funding awarded to the San Francisco Department of Health (SF DOH) [sic] for the past 5 fiscal years. In your letter, you raised concerns that the CDC-funded programs, totaling over $86 million for that period, have not resulted in the reduction of new HIV infections.

We are referring your concerns to CDC for review and appropriate action. We believe that CDC is in the best position to review the issues you raised because its program officials have worked with the SF DOH [sic] throughout this time period and are familiar with the program prevention initiatives, the expected outcomes, and the epidemiological and demographic influences affecting program performance.

As you may know, OIG is currently conducting several reviews related to the Department of Health and Human Services' (HHS) funding in the HIV/AIDS area. Two such reviews are underway in California involving the Health Resources and Services Administration Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Resources and Emergency Act funding. One is focused on Title I funding to the SF Eligible Metropolitan Area, for which SF DOH is the grantee; and the other is focused on Title II funding, particularly the state's implementation of the AIDS Drug Assistance Program. We are also reviewing selected CDC HIV/AIDS prevention grantees in other parts of the country. All of these reviews are primarily addressing financial accountability issues.

Thank you for sharing your concerns about the CDC HIV/AIDS prevention program. If you have documented evidence of any specific instances of waste, fraud, or abuse in the HIV/AIDS grant areas, please forward them to our office.

Sincerely yours,
Dennis J. Duquette
Deputy Inspector General for Audit Services
Office of the Inspector General
Department of Health and Human Services
Washington, DC

-

June 13, 2003

TO: Joseph E. Salter, Director
Management Procedures Branch
Management Analysis and Services Office
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

FROM: Dennis J. Duquette
Deputy Inspector General for Audit Services
Department of Health and Human Services

SUBJECT: Private Citizen Concerns about the Effectiveness of the HIV/AIIDS Prevention Program in San Francisco

The purpose of this memorandum is to forward for your review and appropriate action the attached correspondence we received from a private citizen concerned about Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) grant funding awarded to the San Francisco Department of Health (SF DOH) [sic] over the past 5 years. The citizen is concerned that the CDC-funded programs, totaling over $86 million for that period, have not resulted in the reduction of new HIV infections.

We believe that CDC is in the best position at this time to review the issues raised in the letter because its program officials have worked with the SF DOH [sic] throughout this time period and are familiar with the program prevention initiatives, the expected outcomes, and the epidemiological and demographic influences affecting program performance.

Please let us know within 30 days what actions you plan to take to address the citizen's concerns. If you would like to discuss this referral, please call Donald L. Dille, Assistant Inspector General for Grants and Internal Activities, at (202) 619-1175 or through e-mail at ddille@oig.hhs.gov.

Saturday, June 14, 2003

CDC FINALLY LAUNCHES ASSESSMENT OF HIV PREVENTION


Friday the 13th was a lucky day for me, and, by extension, for the gay male community because it was the day the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sent a letter to Rep. Mark Souder, R-IN, stating the federal agency was “developing plans to periodically review all grantees to assess their effectiveness.”

This relatively innocuous statement represents an enormous shift for the CDC in that the agency, instead of continually shoveling millions of dollars for HIV prevention at local nonprofits without demands that the they produce effective workshops and messages that actually prevent new HIV infections, will soon measure the effectiveness of CDC-funded groups.

Believe it or not, up until now, the CDC has not insisted on proof that its HIV prevention partners at the grassroots level actually reduce the number of new infections, but thanks to my efforts with Souder’s staff, that is about to change.

I’ve worked with Souder pointing out what I believe are ineffectual programs of the Stop AIDS Project, funded by CDC. It’s taken almost three years for CDC to agree with us that asking the Stop AIDS Project, and all HIV prevention groups funded by the agency, produce evidence documenting that their programs are meeting their stated goals of averting new infections.

Sure, Souder’s staff and I have been vilified for even asking that the Stop AIDS Project prove its effectiveness, amid claims by the San Francisco Department of Public Health that the city is undergoing sub-Saharan levels of HIV transmissions, but the vilification really does not matter, because in the end, the CDC will now assess the project’s effectiveness.

This assessment will assist the gay community in San Francisco in evaluating HIV prevention endeavors and their supposed worthiness. For more years than I care to count, no one bothered has asked the Stop AIDS Project to demonstrate its effectiveness, and thanks to Souder listening to me, that is about to change.

With the CDC doling out grants for seemingly endless and pervasive social marketing campaigns targeting gay men wherever we gather in San Francisco, whether for sexual liaisons or a simple cup of coffee, along with flirting classes and annual Geezer Balls, workshops on how to negotiate relationships with rent boys and male escorts, a four-part workshop on cruising the web for sexual sites and connections, it has long been time for the federal government to prove, with hard scientific evidence, such campaigns reduce HIV transmissions.

I am happy to be alive to witness this change on the CDC’s part and will always remember this Friday the 13th as the dawning of a new day for much-needed AIDS accountability.

Below is the text of the letter CDC sent to Sounder yesterday.

- - -

June 13, 2003

The Honorable Mark E. Souder
House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Mr. Souder:

I am writing in follow-up to my letter dated February 13, 2003, and to address concerns raised by your staff regarding the effectiveness of HIV prevention efforts in general and, more specifically, about recent activities of the Stop AIDS Project. I hope to meet in person with you soon to discuss these issues further since I know we share a commitment to reduce the incidence of HIV and apply effective methods in preventing infectious diseases through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s HIV prevention activities.

CDC has a longstanding history of building effective public health programs on a solid foundation of the best possible surveillance data. Over the past two decades, the sensitivity of the HIV/AIDS issue has often made it difficult to obtain precise information about incidence. However, advancements in technology now offer new tools for securing a more accurate estimate of HIV incidence. Specifically, a new assay allowing us to determine how recently individuals became infected should contribute to great accuracy of information about new infections. CDC will continue to take advantage of new technologies, such as the new assay, to ensure that our prevention efforts are driven by the best possible data that ultimately will help us achieve the goal of reducing HIV incidence.

I am also deeply committed to ensuring the efficacy of CDC-funded programs and will take steps to make sure that appropriate measures are in place to achieve the desired results. To follow through on this commitment, we are developing plans to periodically review all grantees to assess their effectiveness, as well as intensify our efforts to assess compliance with statutory and grant management requirements. I look forward to discussing these steps with you personally.

In addition to your concerns about the general effectiveness about CDC’s HIV prevention programs, you have communicated to CDC your specific concerns regarding the CDC-funded activities of the San Francisco Stop AIDS Project. I, too, share your concerns. Under Section 2500 of Public Health Service Act, it is illegal to use federal dollars intended for HIV/AIDS prevention programs designed to promote or encourage, directly, sexual activity. As the Director of CDC, I am committed to ensuring that CDC funds are not used in this manner.

Recent experiences with the Stop AIDS Project indicate that CDC current approach of utilizing community boards to review local program activities in not adequate to ensure compliance with Section 2500. Recent Stop AIDS workshop titles and program descriptions that involve, for example, advice on promoting relations with escorts and prostitutes, in my view, appear to violate Section 2500. Workshops that are consistent with such program titles would also appear to violate Section 2500. In order to rectify this situation, CDC is taking the following actions:

- A letter is being sent to the Stop AIDS Project to provide notice of the appearance of a violation to refrain from using program titles, descriptions, marketing materials, or programs that are designed to directly promote or encourage sexual activity, including prostitution.

- A letter is also being sent to the San Francisco Department of Public Health reminding them of their responsibility to ensure that materials approved by the Program Review Panel, under the auspices of their office, are consistent with provisions of Section 2500.

- CDC will notify HIV prevention program grantees about their obligations to comply with Section 2500.

- CDC is revising its guidance to grantees to provide clear and specific instructions regarding compliance with Section 2500.

- In the case of directly funded community-based organizations, CDC will intensify oversight of grantee activities to determine compliance with relevant CDC guidance.

- CDC will take action to ensure that accountable sate or local health officials independently review federally-funded HIV prevention materials for compliance with Section 2500 and approve the use of such materials in their jurisdiction for directly and indirectly funded organizations.

- All grantees will be required to certify they are complying with revised CDC guidelines. Programs that refuse to comply will not be eligible for federal funding. CDC will also conduct reviews of grantees, including Stop AIDS, to ensure compliance with federal law, regulations, and guidelines.

I appreciate your continued interest in this important public health issue and look forward to meeting with you to discuss these and other areas of interest.

Sincerely,
Julie Louise Gerberding, MD, MPH
Director
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Thursday, June 12, 2003

SULLIVAN'S MINOR MISTAKE ABOUT HIV STATS IN S.F.

[The following was emailed to Sullivan at andsul@aol.com.]

Hey Andrew:

You've made a minor mistake in your item today on recent HIV stats and number of HIV antibody administered by the Department of Public Health.

You wrote: "In April of this year, there wasn't a single case of recent HIV infection found in city HIV testing sites, out of 843 tests."

However, as I wrote in my blog entry about this matter, which called attention to a new HIV/STD report for the city, "the new monthly sexually transmitted disease report from the San Francisco Department of Public Health was released two weeks ago and it shows that for the month of April, out of 183 HIV antibody tests performed, not a single recent HIV infection was detected. [1]"

There were only 183 HIV antibody tests performed in April, not the 843 figure you cite. You've taken the number of HIV antibody tests for the first four months of this year and said it's the figure for tests given in April. It isn't, and I hope you'll make the necessary correction on your blog.

In any case, the central matter, that there were no recent HIV infections detected in San Francisco during April, still stands.

Michael

Source:

1. http://www.dph.sf.ca.us/Reports/STD/STDMONTH.pdf
ANDREW SULLIVAN: HIV STATS IN S.F.


Dear Friends:

When you have yours truly, a proud Nader voter in 2000 and a Birkenstock-wearing antiwar queer radical, and Andrew Sullivan, a Bush supporter who backed the Iraqi war, agreeing on something as important as questions about current HIV stats in San Francisco, it says a lot about how we can put aside differences to examine Department of Public Health allegations about HIV rates surging here.

My thanks go out to Andrew for calling attention to the zero recent HIV infections recorded in April at the city's STD clinic, where the bulk of HIV antibody tests are conducted, after reading an email from me about the lack of recent HIV infections detected by DPH.

So when are reporters, especially the ones who didn't believe the outrageous claims by DPH HIV epidemiologists back in 2000 that San Francisco was experiencing sub-Saharan levels of new HIV transmissions, going to revisit the issue of HIV stats here? How much evidence do reporters need before they pay attention to the fact that a queer radical and a gay conservative are saying the same thing about HIV stats in San Francisco?

I can't fathom why the press is seemingly unwilling to look at HIV in San Francisco and inform readers if the stats are surging, dramatically dropping or remaining stable.

It's also beyond my comprehension why HIV prevention groups, the DPH and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention haven't said a word about the good news: Zero recent HIV infections documented in San Francisco during June. Maybe the last thing these entities want is to provide the gay community and general public with any positive development about HIV numbers here.

The AIDS industry, particularly the San Francisco division, should be ashamed about their silence regarding the mounting evidence that HIV rates in Gay Mecca are _not_ on the upswing.

- - -

www.andrewsullivan.com

June 13, 2003


HIV IN SAN FRANCISCO: You may recall the hysterical headlines of a couple of years ago about a surge in new HIV infections among gay men in San Francisco. Here's a reminder of the rhetoric used from the San Francisco Chronicle:

San Francisco's long-feared and often predicted new wave of HIV infection is here. After years of stability - wrought by strong prevention programs, a safer-sex ethic and powerful drugs - city health experts now estimate that the number of new infections by the virus that causes AIDS nearly doubled, to 900, in the past year. "This is a harbinger of what is going to happen all over the country," warned Tom Coates, director of the University of California at San Francisco AIDS Research Institute. "What happens in the HIV epidemic usually happens here first."

I was skeptical of the data and was pilloried by the usual suspects for being so. So was veteran AIDS activist Michael Petrelis. So it's worth taking another look at what the stats now show. In April of this year, there wasn't a single case of recent HIV infection found in city HIV testing sites, out of 843 tests. That was also true in February, March and June 2002. Total HIV infections seem completely stable from the data. There is, in fact, no evidence whatsoever of a surge in HIV infection rates among gay men in San Francisco. None. Rates of gonorrhea have actually fallen. Rectal gonorrhea, a key correlate of HIV infection, is also stable. The stories were bogus. But they haven't been refuted.
- 12:17:24 AM

ZERO RECENT HIV INFECTIONS IN S.F.; AN APPEAL TO WSJ'S WALDHOLZ

Dear Mike:

It was good to chat with you on the phone last month about the apparent plagiarism by former New York Times reporter Jayson Blair of a Wall Street Journal AIDS article from 1996.

I’m writing you today to follow up on my pitch to you about what I think is a crucial need for the Journal to publish a story about current HIV statistics in San Francisco.

First of all, the new monthly sexually transmitted disease report from the San Francisco Department of Public Health was released two weeks ago and it shows that for the month of April, out of 183 HIV antibody tests performed, not a single recent HIV infection was detected. [1]

As you may know, the DPH contends there are an estimated 1100 new HIV infections occurring annually in San Francisco, so it is reasonable to expect that there should be approximately 91 new recent HIV infections per month in the city.

However, in all of 2002 there were only 31 recent HIV infections recorded, a figure which hardly approaches the 1100 number projected by DPH. [2]

Three years after an HIV epidemiologist for the DPH told the San Francisco Chronicle that the city was experiencing sub-Saharan levels of new transmissions, generating voluminous news stories around the world over the alleged HIV infection rate here, data to back up such a claim is scarce. [3]

So where is America’s AIDS model city at in terms of new HIV infections and verifiable proof for the HIV rate? Is the rate going up, on a downward slope or remarkably stable?

How can San Francisco, which is supposedly in the throes of new HIV transmissions on a par with the African continent, have even one month in which no recent HIV infections are discovered?

The lack of a single recent HIV infection during April is the latest example, in my opinion, of how the city may not be experiencing either sub-Saharan levels of new infections or any where near the alleged 1100 annual new HIV transmissions. The 2002 year-end STD report for the city reveals that for the last two years, less than one hundred HIV antibody test results were positive. [4]

And, it is highly likely that a sizable number of those positive test results were among repeat testers, thereby driving down the annual figures for HIV positive test results.

If you examine the monthly STD reports during last year, you’ll find that during February, March and June of 2002, there were zero recent HIV infections recorded in those three months. [5, 6, 7]

Additionally, for every month last year when recent HIV infections were documented, the number of recent infections was in the low single-digits.

The following question must be asked: How can San Francisco health officials claim surging HIV rates, when the number of HIV positive test results for two years in a row is below 100 per year, and recent HIV infections documented on a monthly basis never climbs into the double-digits?

I ask this as questions have been in raised in my circle of friends about the alarm sounded by the DPH regarding a new strain of a drug resistant staph infection, and a June 5 story appeared in the Bay Area Reporter casting legitimate doubt on the claims and numbers of DPH authorities.

“Just how prevalent the staph infections have been is difficult to gauge. In January, one doctor said he suspected as many as 300 gay men in San Francisco had developed the troublesome staph. Health officials could not verify the number and have yet to produce any credible data on the actual number of cases,” the B.A.R. reported.

The head of DPH, Dr. Mitch Katz, told the B.A.R.: “I haven’t seen that data. Because most of these infections are not going to get reported, there will never be very good data on it.”

That comment, frankly, raises troubling concerns not just about how DPH determined there was an outbreak of epidemic proportions of the new staph infection besetting the gay male community, but it also calls into question the ability of DPH to prove its HIV rate, and that is it indeed exploding on a level akin to that seen in some African countries.

Of all the newspapers in the world devoted to accurately reporting and verifying numbers and statistics, the Journal stands alone.

Having said that, I hope you and the Journal investigate and report on the current status of HIV statistics for San Francisco.

Best,
Michael Petrelis
PH: 415-621-6267

Sources:
1. http://www.dph.sf.ca.us/Reports/STD/STDMONTH.pdf
2. http://www.dph.sf.ca.us/Reports/STD/STD0212.pdf
3. http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/2000/06/30/MN105153.DTL
4. http://www.dph.sf.ca.us/Reports/STD/STD0212.pdf
5. http://www.dph.sf.ca.us/Reports/STD/std0202.pdf
6. http://www.dph.sf.ca.us/Reports/STD/std0203.pdf
7. http://www.dph.sf.ca.us/Reports/STD/std0206.pdf

Thursday, June 05, 2003

SF AIDS FOUNDATION EXECUTIVE SALARIES RISE AGAIN


The latest IRS 990 forms for both the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and its subsidiary nonprofit, the Pangaea Global AIDS Foundation, were released last week and I’ve gone over them and excerpted revenue and salary information to share with you. Unfortunately, the new IRS 990 forms for the foundations are not available on the web. Copies of the forms can be obtained from the San Francisco AIDS Foundation.

Frankly, it doesn’t surprise me in the least that executive salaries at the San Francisco AIDS Foundation rose again. The avarice of the people running the foundation knows no limits.

However, what I do find shocking is that the foundation’s Pangaea Global AIDS Foundation pays its director, Dr. Eric Goosby, a former administrator for HIV/AIDS programs under Donna Shalala when she headed the Department of Health and Human Services, a cool quarter of a million dollars. How the executive director of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation allowed anyone associated with her two AIDS nonprofits to earn substantially more than her amazes me.

Direct services for people living with HIV and AIDS are facing budget shortfalls, but don’t expect the greedy executives at these two nonprofit foundations to cut back on their excessive salaries because their priorities have always been executives first, patients last.

Keep in mind, as you read these salary levels, that the Wall Street Journal on July 9, 2002, reported that the head of the global AIDS fund, “Dr. [Richard] Feachem also startled some UN officials with his salary package of at least $200,000 a year.”

Imagine how those UN authorities would react if they knew how much the executives of Pat Christen’s two AIDS foundations were making.

I hope I live to see the day when the salaries of AIDS executives are cut and the savings passed along to AIDS patients.

Without further ado, here are the numbers. Read ‘em and weep.
- - -


San Francisco AIDS Foundation
IRS 990 form for FY 2001

Total revenue: $22,677,609

Pat Christen, executive director
$212,033

Lance Henderson, finance director
$174,054

David Taylor, human resources director
$149,588

John Vasconcellos, development director
$136,927

Brian Byrnes, programs director
$125,265

Susan Haikalis, director of client services
$124,012

Subtotal: $921,879

Contributions to employee benefit plans:
$14,959, for each of the six directors.

Subtotal: $89,754

Total: $1,011,633


Pangaea Global AIDS Foundation
(An affiliate of the SF AIDS Foundation)
IRS 990 form for FY 2001

Total revenue: $5,923,598

Dr. Eric Goosby, chief executive officer
$166,672

Goosby also received payment for program design services, and that amount was:
$83,340

Subtotal for Goosby: $250,012

Barbara Lawson, project director
$143,163

Rene Durazzo, international programs director
$89,124

Deborah Von Zinkernagel, program design
$143,556

Dr. Allen Ronald, program services
$132,500

Dr. Merle Sande, program services
$120,694

Paul Bouey, program design
$83,340

Subtotal: $962,389

Plus, the top three directors each received $17,277 in contributions to employee benefit plans, for a subtotal of: $51,831

Total: $1,014,220

Sunday, May 18, 2003

NYT'S JAYSON BLAIR PLAGIARIZED A WALL STREET JOURNAL AIDS STORY


Arthur O. Sulzberger, Jr.
Publisher
The New York Times
New York, New York

Dear Mr. Sulzberger:

I would like to bring to your attention another AIDS-related story that appeared in the New York Times and was written by former reporter Jayson Blair, who may have plagiarized and summarized, without attribution, an article from the Wall Street Journal, written by staff reporters Amanda Bennett and Anita Sharpe that appeared in that paper on May 1, 1996, headlined AIDS Fight is Skewed by Federal Campaign Exaggerating Risks, for his story. [1]

Much of what Blair wrote in the following passage from his August 5, 2001, article headlined Healthy Skepticism and the Marketing of AIDS, is really nothing more than a summarization of what ran in the Wall Street Journal five years earlier. [2]

Here is the pertinent excerpt from Blair's story:

"In 1987, for example, the federal government decided to blitz the American people with a frightening message: anyone could get AIDS.

'''If I can get AIDS, anyone can,' said the son of a Baptist minister in one of the government's public service announcements.

"The award-winning campaign, called America Responds to AIDS, helped catapult the disease into the public consciousness and convince public and private funders to underwrite the fight against it. But while the message of the campaign was technically correct, it was also somewhat misleading.

"Yes, everyone faces some measure of risk. But 14 years ago, AIDS in the United States was overwhelmingly a disease of gay men and intravenous drug users, and their children. Yet references to drug use and sexual orientation in the America Responds to AIDS ads were removed under pressure from conservatives in Congress. The minister's son, for example, was gay, but that information was kept out of the script.

"To be sure, prevention experts say that targeting the widest possible audience is not necessarily a bad thing when it comes to a disease like AIDS, particularly when one of the goals is to build not only awareness, but broad support for research and prevention measures.

"But the decision to make descriptions of the new illness as unobjectionable as possible entailed real costs. For years, prevention advocates contend, the ad campaign -- because of what had been left out -- made it impossible for them to get federal health officials to set aside money specifically to educate drug users and gays. Much of the government's $600 million AIDS-prevention budget was used instead to combat the disease among college students, heterosexual women and others who faced a relatively low risk of contracting the disease."

If you read what appeared in the Wall Street Journal about the government's AIDS campaign back then, you'll likely agree that Blair did a good job of condensing what that paper reported.

Also, as you can see in the excerpts below from both articles, Blair essentially plagiarized two sentences from the Wall Street Journal story.

1.
"But while the message of the campaign was technically correct, it was also somewhat misleading."
NY Times
August 5, 2001

"While the message was technically true, it was also highly misleading."
Wall Street Journal
May 1, 1996

2.
"Much of the government's $600 million AIDS-prevention budget was used instead to combat the disease among college students, heterosexual women and others who faced a relatively low risk of contracting the disease."
New York Times
August 5, 2001

"Much of the Centers for Disease Control's $584 million AIDS-prevention budget goes instead to programs to combat the disease among heterosexual women, college students and others who face a relatively low risk of becoming infected."
Wall Street Journal
May 1, 1996

By the way, you should be aware that the Wall Street Journal received a Pulitzer Prize in 1997 for its AIDS coverage the previous year, including the story from which Blair, in my opinion, plagiarized and summarized. [3]

The Times should read the Wall Street Journal article from 1996 and decide if Blair in 2001 did indeed lift and rework some of what was printed there. If he did, then of course, the Times should make the necessary corrections.

Sincerely,
Michael Petrelis
San Francisco, CA
Ph: 415-621-6267

Sources:

1. http://www.pulitzer.org/year/1997/national-reporting/works/2.html
2. http://query.nytimes.com/search/full-page?res=9C03E3DA133CF936A3575BC0A9679C8B63
3. http://www.pulitzer.org/year/1997/national-reporting/works/



Friday, May 16, 2003

HHS AUDIT OF CDC HIV GRANTS TO S.F. DPH REQUESTED

[This letter has been faxed and snail mailed to HHS]
- - -

May 16, 2003

Janet Rehnquist
Inspector General
Department of Health and Human Services
Room 5541 Cohen Building
330 Independence Avenue, S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20201


Dear Ms. Rehnquist:

I am writing to request that an audit and evaluation be performed on the San Francisco Department of Public Health's management and allocation of all grants from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for HIV prevention efforts, HIV antibody testing and HIV surveillance over the past five fiscal years.

The CDC provided the SF DPH with $16 million in FY 1999, $16.5 million in FY 2000, $17 million in FY 2001, $18 million in FY 2002, and $18.5 million in FY 2003 for a total of $86 million over this five-year period.

And yet, despite that enormous sum of federal funding, San Francisco is experiencing alarming rates of new HIV infections that the SF DPH compares to levels in sub-Saharan Africa and the department has not produced and released any data for HIV antibody tests performed with CDC grants since 2000.

These are the questions I would like your office to ask of the SF DPH:

1. Have federal funds been properly spent and accounted for?

2. Can the department's HIV statistics be independently verified?

3. Why has the department not released any data for 2001 and 2002 about the HIV antibody tests administered through the Counseling, Testing, Referral and Partner Counseling and Referral Services program, which is funded by the CDC?

4. Have all community-based HIV prevention organizations receiving CDC grants for workshops and forums met their stated goals of reducing new HIV infections?

5. Did those same organizations use their federal dollars appropriately, according to all federal laws and statutes?

6. Was the department effectively monitoring the HIV prevention organization and their handling of government grants?

Legitimate concerns about the SF DPH's use of CDC grants for HIV prevention services and epidemiology have been raised by activists and reporters during this five-year period, but adequate responses have not been provided by the department.

Employees of the SF DPH's HIV prevention branch are frequently making alarming statements regarding their programs and HIV statistics, that aren't easily corroborated.

Most recently, in the May 15, 2003, edition of the gay newspaper the Bay Area Reporter, Steven Tierney, the director for HIV prevention services of the SF DPH was quoted making the following unsubstantiated claim related to recent shifts by CDC regarding routing HIV testing and prevention efforts.

"Never mind if it wasn't for [current] HIV prevention there would be 160,000 new infections each year [across the nation]," said Tierney.

Where this figure comes from is anyone's guess, but it is indicative of how the department makes claims about HIV matters that can't always be confirmed.

I ask that you move swiftly to investigate the SF DPH's use of HIV related funds from the CDC over the past five years. Decisive action on your part is needed to assure the department is fulfilling its duties and providing appropriate oversight for CDC grants to the city.

Regards,


Michael Petrelis
2215-R Market Street, #413
San Francisco, CA 94114
Ph: 415-621-6267

Cc:
Secretary Tommy Thompson, HHS
Dr. Julie Gerberding, CDC
Dr. Ronald O. Valdiserri, CDC
Dr. Bill Frist, US Senate
Mark Souder, US House of Representatives
Dr. Dave Weldon, US House of Representatives

Thursday, May 15, 2003

MY STRAIGHT BOYFRIEND; REJECTING "GAY LIFE"

I met Josh one summer when I took an intensive five-week course in Italian at City College of San Francisco. For the first week, he made no impression on me, due in part to the large size of the class. When the instructor had us do language exercises with each other, I began to pay some attention to Josh and his voice, one that had a boyish timbre.

Over the summer, he and I would meet at cafes, or at my apartment, and practice Italian and do lessons for the class. When he first came to the apartment I live in with my genuine boyfriend, Mike, who is gay, Josh told he had lived in the apartment above ours the previous year when he occupied the couch of our upstairs neighbors.

“So you were once living in the same building as me, and making too much noise, while here,” I said to him. “We can every sound our neighbors make, including their houseguests.”

We’d been near each other in the city and didn’t even know it or each other, until later. Months before we signed up for the Italian course, Josh bought a VCR camera. One sunny weekend afternoon he walked about the city, videotaping people going about their business that day. His footage from the corner of Church and Market Streets shows a bicyclist, wearing an older, bulky helmet on his head and Levi’s shorts. He is loudly confronting two people in t-shirts for the California AIDS Ride, which had its kickoff that morning.

“The AIDS Ride is a scam. It does not help AIDS patients. The organizers reap all the profits from the scam, not people with HIV,” he says them, for less than a minute, as they cross the street. “I hope the AIDS Ride goes out of business. The sooner the better.”

The bicyclist was me. When Josh gave me a copy of the tape so I could see it, we laughed about how the AIDS Ride did indeed go out of business last year.

Some sort of force was bringing us close to one another, looking back on such things now.

One of oddest things about our relationship, is that he is not at all like the kind of man I feel attracted to. Josh was in his mid twenties when we met, under 200 pounds, light brown hair, clean shaven; your general sort of young artistic man living in the city. My taste in men runs toward the mature male, preferably bearish, with some meat on his bones. That wasn’t Josh, but I as I got to know him, his naturally adorable masculinity and innate cheerfulness grew on me.

In the next few years, I would see him sporadically on the campus, when he wasn’t off traveling abroad and experiencing life.

We lost touch for awhile, until he was back in touch with our upstairs neighbors and then phoned me. Soon thereafter, we went on a date. Our mutual acquaintances were part of a theatrical company that put on a professionally produced a play at the Project Artuad theater, and we went to see it.

On other occasions, we had beers or coffee together around the Mission and Castro neighborhoods. He then disappeared again, this time to Athens, Georgia. I would get postcards from him, on an irregular basis, telling me how much he liked me and out times together.

I didn’t see Josh again until I literally bumped into him at the line for coffee at CafĂ© Flore in the summer of 2002. He seemed to have grown a few inches and had more facial hair, still with his sweet smile and appealing eyes.

As we caught up with each other, I felt for the first time that I loved him, as a friend, and how he made me happy for the times I spent with him. I derived such pleasure from his mind and personality. We can just easily chat for hours about political developments, the latest movies, especially off beat or foreign ones, our lives, and a mutual concern and respect flows between us.

Still, I didn’t want to have sex with him and his orientation precluded any possibility of sexual intimacy, a fact that helped me feel so comfortable with Josh. But I felt we had a true friendship between men, one that transcended sexuality, difference in ages and that fact we only see one another a couple of time every year, if I am lucky and he is in San Francisco.

Details of sexual orientation aside, I defined us as boyfriends, in my mind. When I informed Josh of this on the telephone, he laugh so loud I had to move the phone a few inches away from my ear.

“That’s fine with me,” he said. “I’m telling my friends and co-workers that I am your straight boyfriend. Let’s have another date.”

We attended plays and movies together again, shared some brews at the Zeitgeist biker bar, found out what was new in our separate lives. He had no idea about all the legal troubles I had hanging over my head from phone calls I made in 2001 that landed me in the San Francisco county jail for 72 days. I learned that he bought a house in Athens.

Two months ago we went to hear Wall Street Journal reporter Marilyn Chase read from her new book about the bubonic plague at a bookstore on Van Ness Avenue. My real boyfriend had zero interest in the Chase talk, so he was only too happy to have me go with Josh.

Mike has met Josh and thinks it’s great I have a relationship going with him.

“If he’s willing to listen to you extol the glories of your favorite director, Bela Tarr, and his seven-and-half hour masterpiece ‘Satantango,’ I’m happy for you,” said Mike.

What does any of this have to with HIV prevention? Plenty, in my opinion.

I see the larger picture being one of an HIV prevention mafia operating programs with such silliness as federally funded flirting classes and other socializing events, to help gay men find lovers, boyfriends, and plain old friends, all in an effort to prevent HIV and STDs.

On a fundamental level I find it offensive, and somewhat incredible, that in San Francisco, of all U.S. cities, the poor pathetic homosexual is not able to acquire friends and partners without having to take an erotic writing course, join the HIV bowling league or attend a forum on how to fist safely. It’s my understanding from friends who have attended these events, that very few men are showing up for them.

The programs are getting so desperate for attendees that the Gay Life program of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, which is run by a heterosexual woman, is offering a four-part series on how to find sex on the web. What normal gay man here needs the help of such workshops to locate sexual outlets and partners on the web? None that I know of, and it is my fervent hope that gay men reject the Gay Life efforts, as I have done. [1]

Girlfriend, if you need help flirting with men, or cruising the web, and you live here, maybe you’re not really gay. Or perhaps you are so pathetic and don’t have a life, and need to get one.

If I can find not only my gay boyfriend, whom I still love after almost eight years together, and he continues to reciprocate with bonds of affection and concern for me, but also a straight male boyfriend like Josh, then other gay men in this town should have little problems finding boyfriends.

Plus, you have to remember I’m no Colt model, have a wild, radical political reputation and adore the films of Bela Tarr, almost to the point of obsession, so I’m not exactly what many gay men would consider prime boyfriend material. But that hasn’t prevented me from making true boyfriends like Mike and Josh. And without the help of a single government funded HIV prevention workshop.

Source:
1. www.gaylife.org

Monday, May 12, 2003

NYT'S JAYSON BLAIR'S POSSIBLE ERROR IN AN AIDS STORY

Arthur Sulzberger, Jr.
Publisher
The New York Times
New York, NY

Dear Mr. Sulzberger:

I wish to bring a June 23, 2001, NY Times story about AIDS written by Jayson Blair to your attention, because there may be an inaccurate figure in the article related to damages sought in the lawsuit.

Blair wrote about a woman who had sued Merck and Company and an advertising agency over the use of her image in an ad for AIDS drugs, without her authorization.

"Her lawyer has said that she would seek $72 million in damages from the two companies," Blair wrote.

However, the AIDS-focused magazine POZ, in its December 2001 issue, said the following about the case.

"Sweet Jane is seeking a mere $12 million in compensatory damages and $6 million in punitive damages."

There's quite a difference between the $72 million cited by Blair and the $18 million mentioned in the POZ news brief.

The Times may want to investigate what the exact amount was that the woman was suing for in damages, and other claims in Blair's June 23, 2001, article.

Regards,
Michael Petrelis
San Francisco, CA
Ph: 415-621-6267

- - -
June 23, 2001
NY Times

Woman Wins Suit on Misleading AIDS Ad
By JAYSON BLAIR

A woman with AIDS whose photograph was used in a brochure for a drug to fight the disease without her permission has won a summary judgment in a defamation and civil rights lawsuit against Merck & Company, one of the world's largest pharmaceutical manufacturers.

Justice Mary M. Werner of State Supreme Court in Manhattan ruled that the woman, who was not identified, had been defamed when Merck and its Manhattan advertising agency, Harrison & Star, used her photograph in the brochure with a fictitious biography.

The brochure described the woman as a 19-year-old with two children and suggested that she had contracted AIDS and herpes through being sexually promiscuous. The woman was actually a suburban housewife and mother in her mid-30's. She did not have herpes and contracted H.I.V. from her husband. She had signed a waiver when her photograph was taken, but had expected that her image would be used only for educational purposes, her lawyer said. She was paid to have her photograph taken, although the exact amount was not revealed.

Justice Werner said the case can now move to a hearing in which a jury would decide how much the woman would receive in punitive and compensatory damages. Her lawyer has said that she would seek $72 million in damages from the two companies. The ruling stated that Justice Werner had found that the company acted with "actual malice" because the "record establishes that the brochure was published with the knowledge of the text's falsity."

Justice Werner rejected the defendants' argument that the brochure was substantially true, and that the woman's signing the waiver removed their liability.

The use of fictitious or misleading biographies is a common, even if controversial, practice in medical marketing, particularly when it comes to AIDS. In a recent instance, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was criticized for a marketing campaign intended to increase awareness about the ease of H.I.V. transmission that did not note that the people portrayed were in high-risk groups, such as intravenous drug users or gays.

Critics said that incident led Congress to direct federal AIDS money away from programs for gays and intravenous drug users.

In the more recent case involving the woman in her 30's, critics said they were concerned that the fictitious biography was created to help the average AIDS patient identify with the woman.

"The case is obviously important to our client because it vindicates her and gives her a measure of satisfaction for all the damage and the pain that was caused to her," said the woman's lawyer, Meredith Braxton. "The broader message that is important about this case is that big companies cannot play with the rights of individuals with impunity."

Gregory E. Reaves, a spokesman for Merck, which is based in Whitehouse Station, N.J., said that the company "certainly would not comment on pending litigation." The lawyer representing Merck and Harrison & Star, Sara Lynn Edelman, could not be reached for comment.

The ruling was first reported yesterday in The New York Law Journal. The decision was handed down on June 13.

Dan Willson, a spokesman for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center in Manhattan said the real issue was being honest about AIDS.

"There is no reason to be melodramatic about this because the fact of the matter is that the reality of these stories is compelling enough," he said.

Court filings, many of which have been sealed because they include identifiable information about the woman, tell the plaintiff's story.

The records say that the woman was recruited in 1996 by the Morgan Agency, a Costa Mesa, Calif., modeling firm that said her story would be used solely for educational purposes. The woman was photographed by Skip Hine Photography, which is based in Riverdale, the Bronx.

The woman signed an agreement stating that the photographs would be used only for educational purposes.

The photographs first appeared in a Merck educational brochure called "Getting the Facts." But in 1997, they also appeared in a marketing brochure for Crixivan, a drug that Merck developed to fight AIDS .

Merck made $562 million in gross revenue in 1997 because of the drug. The woman plans to request $56 million in punitive damages, or about 10 percent of the gross revenues, and about $16 million in compensatory damages.

The lawsuit was filed in 1998 after the woman went into a health clinic and a friend showed her the photograph and fictitious profile in the brochure. At the beginning of the case, Merck said it would remove her image from its advertising.

But yesterday, the advertisement was still available on a Merck Web page for health care providers.

When she was told about the Web page, Ms. Braxton, the woman's lawyer, said she was surprised that Merck was still using it and said she would go into court on Monday to ask for an order that it be removed from the Web site.

-

http://www.poz.com/archive/december2001/inside/aidswevegotyour.html

POZ
12.01

FEATURES

A Merck-y Story

A Jane Doe with HIV won a defamation and civil rights suit against Merck and its ad agency in June. The thirtysomething soccer mom -- who says she got HIV from her hubby -- was identified in a 1997 "Sharing Stories" brochure she gave face to as a 19-year-old with two kids who got HIV and herpes from promiscuous sex. Sweet Jane is seeking a mere $12 million in compensatory damages and $6 million in punitive damages.

Friday, May 09, 2003

THE ADVOCATE'S MISTAKE ON S.F.'S GAY BATHHOUSES


Editor
The Advocate
Los Angeles, CA

Dear Editor:

In his April 23 opinion piece for the advocate.com web site, Who's SAR-y now?, by Charles Karel Bouley ll, a gay talk show host for KGO radio in San Francisco, he states the following.

"In 1982 they were arguing in San Francisco whether or not to close the bathhouses. . . They did finally close the bathhouses in 1985," which is true. But Bouley then goes on to erroneously make the claims "they reopened shortly thereafter. And now they are back and as popular ever." [1]

Nothing could be further from the truth. The gay bathhouses did not reopen after the city banned them, and they are not operating again in San Francisco, nor are they as popular as ever in this town because they are prohibited.

I have no idea where your columnist got his misinformation from, but I am requesting that you immediately post a correction on the advocate.com web site, and in the future, before running such columns about bathhouses here, that you assign a fact checker to investigate all claims made by the writer.

Lies about the bathhouses miraculously reopening in the only American city that shut them down in a misguided effort to control HIV and STD infections should not be allowed to stand as truth on your site.

Just this week, the San Francisco Chronicle editorialized about the closure of the bathhouses. "City officials know too well what can happen when there's a slow response to a public health crisis, as witnesses to the gay public bath debacle 20 years ago can attest. That sad chapter in history shows what can happen when political sensitivities override sound public health policy," said the paper. [2]

If the bathhouses for gay men were indeed open again and flourishing, you could count on the Chronicle to mention it in editorials.

I look forward to a correction about Bouley's errors posted on the Advocate's web site.

Sincerely,
Michael Petrelis
San Francisco, CA
Ph: 415-621-6267


Sources:
1. http://www.advocate.com/html/stories/888/888_bouley.asp

2. http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/2003/05/07/ED300690.DTL