‘Gay disease’ scare could bring even scarier consequences

BTL Staff
By | 2018-01-16T02:20:42-05:00 January 24th, 2007|Opinions|

In the past week or so, pandemonium has spread after a study published online in the Annals of Internal Medicine said that gay men in San Francisco were “many times more likely” to be infected with MRSA USA300, a potentially deadly and antibiotic-resistant type of staph infection.
MRSA, which is typically caused by skin-to-skin contact, has flared up in recent years as a concern in hospitals, schools and day care centers. But now, the fear has been taken over the top.
Media sources all over the world blew the study, done by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, out of proportion with headlines like “Flesh-eating bug spreads among gays” and “Deadly superbug spreads in gay communities.” One London tabloid even went so far as to call it “the new HIV.”
The confusion over the truth about MRSA USA300 opened the door wide for anti-gay groups to use the supposed gay epidemic as another supporting point for their argument that homosexual behavior is “unnatural” and “wrong.”
Now, the researchers who published the study are scrambling to clarify their statements, saying that they never meant that this strain only occurs in gay men. Last Friday, they even issued an apology, saying that their release had “contained some information that could be interpreted as misleading.”
What a gross understatement. The lead author, Bien Diep, wrote in the report that he was concerned about “a potential spread of this strain into the general population,” which basically translates to “the gays are going to infect everyone!” Diep promptly put his foot in his mouth on Friday, saying that “general population” was medical jargon and he didn’t mean to imply that homosexuals aren’t part of that group. Nice try.
While the media haven’t exactly been doing their part (aside from press bigwigs like Newsweek, New York Times and, of course, Between The Lines) to quell the rumors and flesh out the truth, the researchers are the most to blame for the hysteria they’ve caused. They claimed that they didn’t see the political consequences and saw the report from a purely scientific point of view. Apparently, they were all living in a cave when the world was in a fuss over HIV/AIDS and the eerily similar idea that infected homosexuals would spread the disease to others.
Of course, the most frustrating part of this all is that it casts a negative light on the LGBT community, painting it as a cesspool for disease and infection. “The dangerous and possibly deadly consequence of what occurs in those bedrooms is spilling over into the general population,” said Matt Barber, policy director for cultural issues with Concerned Women for America. “It’s not only frightening, it’s infuriating.”
“It’s very stigmatizing, it’s alarmist, it’s homophobic and it’s just unnecessary,” spat back Gay Men’s Health Institute Director Bill Stackhouse.
Indeed, but what’s even more frightening is the idea that if the “general population” (read: heterosexuals) thinks this infection is only occurring amongst gay men, they will do nothing to protect themselves from it. And the truth? Although MRSA USA300 is not spread as easily as viruses like, say, measles, it could potentially happen to anyone, be they gay, straight, women, men, old or young. And while it can be treated, it can also be harmful and even deadly.
Now that’s something to make headlines.

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BTL Staff
Between The Lines has been publishing LGBTQ-related content in Southeast Michigan since the early '90s. This year marks the publication's 25th anniversary.