Conservative groups use researchers’ words to back their claims gay men’s sex habits create “‘breeding ground’ for deadly diseases
Researchers apologized last week after a recently released study prompted sensational media coverage about a new drug-resistant strain of staph infection.
A Feb. 14 report from the University of California at San Francisco, which led the study, said that gay men are “many times more likely than others” to contract the rare but potentially deadly strain, known as MRSA USA300.
The report led to newspaper headlines reminiscent of the initial HIV/AIDS panic and provided ammunition for anti-gay groups. Four days later, the university issued a statement saying the report “could have been interpreted as misleading.”
“We deplore negative targeting of specific populations in association with MRSA infections or other public health concerns, and we will be working to ensure that accurate information about the research is disseminated to the health community and the general public,” the university said Friday, Jan. 18.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, which helped finance the study, MRSA USA300 is not considered a sexually transmitted disease in the classical sense and is not limited to any one group.
“These infections occur in men, women, adults, children and persons of all races and sexual orientations, and are known to be transmitted by close skin-to-skin contact,” the CDC said Jan. 16.
The statements from the university and the CDC did not come in time to stop right-wing groups, such as Concerned Women for America and Americans for Truth About Homosexuality, from seizing upon the media coverage.
“The medical community has known for years that homosexual conduct, especially among males, creates a breeding ground for often deadly disease,” said Matt Barber, policy director for cultural issues at CWA, in a statement the day after the university’s report.
The Human Rights Campaign responded by accusing the groups of bigotry.
“We saw this kind of hysteria in the early 1980s around HIV/AIDS, [and] I’ll be damned if we sit idly by in 2008 and let them perpetuate that type of anti-gay hysteria without calling them on it,” HRC President Joe Solmonese said.
Bret Camp, clinic director for the Resource Center of Dallas, said while the study focused on San Francisco, Boston, Atlanta and Los Angeles, there have been cases of the new strain in this area dating back several years.
“We have had local cases, and it continues to be of concern,” Camp said. “”It’s something you need to be aware of, and it’s something you need to respect, but it isn’t something to fear.”
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, you can prevent spreading staph and MRSA skin infections by following these recommendations:
– Cover your wound. Keep wounds that are draining or have pus covered with clean, dry bandages. Follow your healthcare provider’s instructions on proper care of the wound. Pus from infected wounds can contain staph and MRSA, so keeping wounds covered will help prevent the spread to others. Bandages or tape can be discarded with the regular trash.
– Clean your hands. You, your family, and others in close contact should wash their hands frequently with soap and warm water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, especially after changing the bandage or touching the infected wounds.
– Do not share personal items. Avoid sharing personal items such as towels, washcloths, razors, clothing, or uniforms that may have had contact with infected wounds or bandages. Wash sheets, towels, and clothes that become soiled with water and laundry detergent. Drying clothes in a hot dryer, rather than air-drying, also helps kill bacteria in clothes.
– Talk to your doctor. Tell any healthcare providers who treat you that you have or had a staph or MRSA skin infection.
The full study can be viewed at www.annals.org/cgi/content/full/0000605-200802190-00204v1.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 25, 2008