Letters To The Editor

  • Tuesday February 21, 2006
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HIV billboards make sense

Trevor Hoppe is way off base in his February 16 opinion article ["Defund HIV prevention," February 16] . This year is 25 years since reports first appeared in the U.S. media about people with symptoms later identified as HIV infection and AIDS. Medical science still does not have a cure for this disease or a vaccine to prevent new infections. The public health community has not yet developed a strategy that is 100 percent effective at stopping the epidemic. Therefore, it is incumbent upon public health officials to pursue every possible method they can to reduce the spread of the infection.

Mr. Hoppe objects to a billboard advertisement that attempts to encourage or reinforce certain behaviors on the part of people with HIV infection so that they take every precaution to prevent transmission of HIV to others. In fact, he not only objects to the ad, he is furious about it. He is disturbed that the ad does not direct its message about HIV prevention to people who are not infected.

Only people with HIV infection can transmit the virus to other, uninfected people. That is a biological fact, even if Mr. Hoppe doesn't like it. Therefore, it is entirely appropriate to direct public health messages toward HIV positive people to try to prevent the spread of the virus by focusing on their behavioral decisions. The public health department also, at other times and in other places, has used advertising to direct HIV prevention messages toward HIV negative people, to encourage them to choose behaviors that will allow them to remain HIV negative. It is important that public health messages address both HIV positive and HIV negative people in the effort to stop the transmission of HIV, but why is it necessary that all public health messages try to speak to everyone at the same time?

The long-term consequences of HIV infection are potentially severe and life threatening. Until there is a cure and a vaccine, all of us who care about our neighbors in San Francisco and elsewhere must do whatever we can in every possible way to prevent new HIV infections. Prevention efforts must include attempts to address complex behavioral choices and to cause people to think about their behaviors before they act in an unhealthy or risky manner. I applaud the city's Department of Public Health for all its work to reduce the spread of HIV and for the many different approaches to this challenge that DPH continues to try. Of course, some public health campaigns work better than others, but any public health message that prevents just one HIV infection may save a life and is valuable.


Carl Stein

Owen Medical Group

Defunding prevention wrong idea

The writer of last week's guest opinion is misinformed on several counts. Apparently the "New Year's Resolution: I won't infect anyone" billboard that was above Cafe Flore for the month of January ruined his brunch. Sorry for that, but the tirade about the billboard and HIV prevention funding is way off base.

The billboard was meant to encourage men who are carelessly transmitting the virus, they do exist, to be more thoughtful and compassionate towards their partners. The HIV Stops With Me campaign celebrates the leadership of the vast majority of positive men who can't stomach the idea of passing this virus on and who are committed to ending the epidemic.

Mr. Hoppe is twisting the message into some kind of conflict between positives and negatives. There is no conflict. Positive and negative men are partners in prevention and both need to take responsibility for their actions. Sometimes it is effective to target prevention efforts to one group or the other, but this does not mean that we don't have the same goal - we all want to stop new infections. There is nothing "pozphobic" about tailoring messages to HIV positive men. In fact, prevention efforts for positive men have played a large part in keeping new infections so low here in San Francisco.

Finally, Mr. Hoppe has a distorted view of what San Francisco is all about. What makes this city so great is our tradition of tolerance and mutual respect. It's a place where we can be free to follow our dreams and where we value everyone else's right to pursue their freedom and self-expression. It is NOT a place to come if you only think about yourself and where there is no accountability for doing harm to someone else.    

Les Pappas

Better World Advertising

creator of the HIV Stops With Me campaign

Oral STD requires better behavior

Magnet and the San Francisco Health Department may well need to rethink their treatment of pharyngeal gonorrhea, but reporter Zak Szymanski had better find a better poster boy for the cause ["Questions raised about SF's gonorrhea protocol," February 9]. The "local man" cited in the article assumed his continuing symptoms to be strep throat, yet he continued having sex with other partners.

"I thought I was being responsible," he is quoted as saying. Responsible because he was exposing his partners to one major bacterial infection instead of another? And what of the health consequences to himself, having oral sex with an active infection and badly inflamed throat tissue? Responsible? What planet is he living on?

Randy Alfred

San Francisco

Magnet defends its practices

Magnet appreciates feedback from its clients and is interested in improving the services it has provided to over 5,000 gay men and others in the last year alone. Magnet has played a significant role in developing what is one of the best sexual health care delivery systems for gay men in the country. In response to the suggestion by Paul Quick [Mailstrom, February 16] that Magnet services are not delivered by licensed providers, it is important for our clients to know that diagnosis and treatment of STDs at Magnet is performed under the direct supervision of our clinical services coordinator, a physician's assistant, working closely with our medical director, a physician. Combined, these individuals bring over 30 years experience serving gay men's health.

Magnet's team of dedicated volunteers includes more than 50 men and women, including HIV counselors, nurses, nurse practitioners, phlebotomists and medical doctors. Other lay volunteers and staff perform limited functions after intensive training, with close monitoring and supervision, as is the norm in public health settings. Since opening our doors in July of 2003, more than 10,000 clients have received high quality services at Magnet, despite a staff of only six persons.

The health department's protocol for antibiotic treatment of gonorrhea has recently come under scrutiny. As our STD clinical services are conducted under the auspices of the city's STD prevention and control services, we follow the city's established protocols, with clinicians exercising independent medical judgment as required. In particular, the city recommends cefpodoxime 200 mg for treatment of gonorrhea affecting the throat, which is the FDA-approved dose for gonorrhea at other bodily sites. While Magnet appreciates some of the concerns raised about this regimen, a CDC-recommended injectable drug is available to Magnet clinicians to treat suspected treatment failures in the interim while further research is conducted to determine the best way to treat gonorrhea affecting the throat. Magnet is happy to assist in these efforts, but as a new center with a limited staff serving more than three times the number of clients originally forecast, our role in research is limited at this time.

We welcome the opportunity to partner with the city and the community's primary care providers to assure that gay men receive the high quality of care we deserve. We are extremely proud of the excellent services that Magnet offers gay men in the heart of the Castro and all who share our commitment to gay men's health - body, mind and spirit.

Steven Gibson

Magnet director

Berlin photos miss the mark

Thanks for the many interviews and announcements of the various Peter Berlin events and programs over the past several months ["Peter Berlin Talks," February 16]. Phew!  Judging by the coverage, this must be the queer cultural event of the season, if not the entire year!

However, I'd like to point out one omission in your coverage that would have been of particular interest to the many mature gay men such as myself who are Peter Berlin fans and loyal Bay Area Reporter readers.

It would have been terrific if the coverage had included more recent pictures of Mr. Berlin, as he looks today, as well the ones from thirty years ago.  Since he must be aged 50 to 60 by this time, it would have been interesting and, dare I say, even hot to view photos of an older gay man who was once a youthful idol.

The B.A.R. missed a chance to break from the ageism that pervades other queer media. Or should older gay men remain invisible and always defer to the illusion of eternal youth?

J. Allen Carson

San Francisco

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