Stronger Public Health Action Needed
June 28, 2006
To the Editor:
We look forward to picking up Gay City News every week and turn right to Duncan Osborne’s health stories, as no one is covering GLBT community better in this area, especially on HIV/AIDS.
Regarding his story “Privacy v HIV Data Collection” (Jun. 22-28), it is no surprise that there is distrust of the aims of the city public health department. The GLBT community has at times been the subject of neglect and discrimination; our defensiveness is earned. However, the public health tradition is that if we can find root causes of problems, we can deal with them before they cause disease outbreaks. One of the most famous examples is the case of London’s Broad Street Pump and Dr. John Snow, who found, by meticulous interviewing of cases, that most of those who fell ill in an 1854 cholera outbreak got their water from that pump. Instead of treating each as they fell ill, he had the handle removed from the pump and the epidemic subsided.
Right now, more than a thousand people per year are diagnosed with AIDS in New York City at the same time they receive their AIDS diagnosis. We are seeing people, many of them young, many men who have sex with men, come in with symptoms reminiscent of the bad old days—fever, nausea, weakness, weight loss, thrush, and sometimes the big opportunistic infections: PCP, severe herpes infections, esophageal infections.
Yes we can still treat them, but it is not so easy. Often the immune system is quite slow to come back, and may never return to normal. Eighty percent of these co-diagnosed patients are African American or Latino. We need a strong public health system to end this problem, which is just what Commissioner Frieden is trying to do in removing barriers to testing.
We read in Osborne’s story that many question the doctors, that we will not offer testing in sensitive ways that carry a prevention message. That’s true, not all doctors are good at this yet. The answer is not to throw up our hands, but to work with them to incorporate screening and testing in the same way that they do other chronic problems. We feel urgency about people getting sick daily, and unwittingly exposing their partners to a still formidable disease—especially if left untreated for too long. We cannot afford to wait until doctors are perfect—that day will not come. We have faith that doctors can catch up and learn by doing. People with HIV, even newly diagnosed, are usually not so fragile and, after some initial very tough moments, will cope well with the information and get into care.
The other major issue has been the health department’s attempt to find those not doing well. While we think that Frieden was overreaching—that it is not possible or even desirable for the health department to single-handedly take care of all of these people—the sentiment of that effort should not be lost. Patients in these circumstances often DO need outreach. In our experience, people usually drop out of care not because they are willful, but because of other problems like depression, severe substance use, housing, or other social issues. Our nurses and doctors call patients to come back if we have not seen them in a while and the overwhelming attitude is gratitude that we care enough to make an effort.
We think the health department should be allowed to work with health care providers to offer people easy ways back into care. We are often operating short of crucial information such as resistance tests that allow us to plan the best treatment when we do get patients into care. There should be a way, with patient consent, to access some of the clinical information that the DOH has as part of surveillance epidemiology. Currently by law the health department is not allowed to work with us on that level.
Do we need to exercise some vigilance that overreaching or prejudiced individuals, a la Mississippi, don’t trample on rights in the process of pursuing public health goals? Absolutely. Do we want to help remove the handle from the Broad Street Pump? We have to.
Barbara E. Johnston, MD
Antonio Urbina, MD
Paul Galatowitsch, Ph.D.
Saint Vincent Catholic Medical Centers of New York
Spitzer, Paterson the Right Choices
June 29, 2006
To the Editor
The Empire State Pride Agenda did not just backing a winning team, but the right team, when they endorsed Eliot Spitzer and David Paterson (ESPA Endorses Spitzer’s Bid for Governor, by Paul Schindler, Jun. 29-Jul. 5). Spitzer has been an ally of the LGBT community, and someone who will be a staunch supporter of marriage equality. Eliot has joined the efforts to achieve equality, such as when he joined the mayor and Senators Hillary Clinton and Chuck Schumer to urge President Bush to make sure that domestic partners and spouses of those killed on September 11 would receive equal compensation. Senator Paterson has advocated for the Hate Crimes Law and Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act, both important measures to penalize those who ignore conscience and harm others because of their orientation. Both have proven track records of support for the LGBT community and will wield muscle behind their words once they take office. I am so proud ESPA is lining up with Stonewall and other progressive LGBT organizations in supporting the Spitzer/Paterson team.
Stonewall Democrats of New York City
Dykes On TV As Well As On Bikes
June 30, 2006
To the Editor
I was very surprised to read Winnie McCroy’s article about Brooklyn Pride (“Pride Up and Down the Slope”, Jun. 15-21) and find out that somehow, Dyke TV’s large, loud presence escaped her notice. She pointed out that as always, Dykes on Bikes opened the parade, “followed by City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn and her cadre.” Actually, Dyke TV marched proudly between these two groups, with over a dozen walking volunteers and a large float featuring a donated live performance by hot dyke rapper God-des and her hot singing partner She. God-des and She’s music boomed from a sound system generously donated (and operated) by the queer-friendly owner of Southpaw. The float also carried the banner of local lesbian-owned coffeehouse Gorilla Coffee, who helped Dyke TV with our costs.
All down the parade, the crowd rocked out to God-des and She, and by the end of it we’d attracted many more marchers who danced along with us. As the first and longest-running television show by, for, and about queer women (bio and trans), we were happy to represent our Brooklyn roots, and to be recognized by the crowd in return. I’m sure Ms. McCroy meant no harm in excluding us from any mention in the article, but God-des and She, Southpaw, our hard-working volunteers, and our organization deserved recognition.
Dyke TV and DTV Productions
Please address letters to the editor to
Or fax them to 646-452-2501
Gay City News | 145 Sixth Avenue, New York, NY 10013© 2006 Community Media, LLC
You must include your phone number, which will be use for confirmation purposes only. The editors reserve the right to edit all letters due to space constraints.