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Newsweek Gets “Gay” MRSA Story Right, CWA Gets it Oh So Wrong

January 19, 2008

Earlier this week, I noted a study on MRSA infections in men who have sex with men, pointed toward oversimplified media headlines, and expressed the hope that readers wouldn’t look at these findings and say, “Oh, that just affects teh gays.”

Yesterday, Newsweek got it exactly right in a critique of coverage of the story, with commentary such as:

Stackhouse [of Gay Men’s Health Crisis] believes that no one benefits if USA300 gets labeled as a “gay disease.” When that happens, he says, “people who aren’t gay don’t see themselves at risk, and there is a risk out there,” he adds. “This kind of stigma presents a challenge. ‘I’m not gay, so I’m not at risk,’ whether it’s about HIV, whether it’s about MRSA. That’s the big downside to this kind of reporting.”

Newsweek also pointed to one ridiculous headline I missed initially – “Epidemic Feared – ‘Gays’ May Spread Deadly Staph Infection to General Population” – from the folks at Concerned Women for America. Yes, their policy director really did say:

In recent years we have seen a profound resurgence in cases of HIV/AIDS, syphilis, rectal gonorrhea and many other STDs among those who call themselves ‘gay.’ The human body is quite callous in how it handles mistreatment and the perversion of its natural functions. When two men mimic the act of heterosexual intercourse with one another, they create an environment, a biological counterfeit, wherein disease can thrive. Unnatural behaviors beget natural consequences.


Well, now the dangerous and possibly deadly consequence of what occurs in those bedrooms is spilling over into the general population. It’s not only frightening, it’s infuriating. Citizens, especially parents, need to stand up and say, ‘No More! We will no longer sit idly by while politically correct cultural elites endanger our children and larger communities through propagandist promotion of this demonstrably deadly lifestyle.’

Holy overreaction, Batman! Could you keep your homophobia out of my science, please? “Call themselves” gay?!? Nice scare quotes around “gay,” by the way. Yes, MRSA can be serious, but it isn’t usually the death sentence that AIDS initially represented, and I’m reasonably sure nobody is organizing a campaign to affect teh straights with MRSA.

Voices of American Sexuality takes a more reasonable approach: “The take home public health message from the story is that the bacteria may be more easily transmitted through sexual activity than non-sexual skin-on-skin contact. This implies that all sexually active people and their health providers should be on the look-up for signs of infection. Let’s leave the gay men infection vector language in the history books.”

Again, I’m going to go with the “canaries in the coalmine” analogy, and see this finding as representing new areas of safer sex that need to be explored, of knowledge to be acquired. CWA, on the other hand, will probably continue trying to make “those who call themselves ‘gay'” into the new zombies.


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