Conspiracy of Silence?
No news on the good news of decreasing AIDS cases in San Francisco
By Partick Monette-Shaw, Independent Community Observer/AIDS Accountability
(From a letter to the editor, Sacramento Bee, January 17, 2002;
Edited for Alive & Well by Christine Maggiore)
Good news has struck San Francisco, but a conspiracy of silence
surrounding its release—possibly deliberate—is keeping
it from widespread public knowledge.
Neither the mainstream media, the gay and lesbian alternative press,
nor the San Francisco Department of Public Health (SFDPH) have publicized
the SFDPH Quarterly AIDS Surveillance Report for the period ending
December 2001. Cross-year comparative analysis to end-of-year quarterly
reports for December 2000, 1999, and 1998, shows a steady drop in
two significant categories: The number of new AIDS cases, and the
number of AIDS deaths.
AIDS and AIDS deaths are at an all-time low in San Francisco, but
rather than celebrating the good news, the media and the DPH keep
us in the dark.
By reviewing the quarterly reports across the past four years, an
astute reader can uncover the fact that the number of AIDS cases
in the city has dropped from 945 in 1998 to only 579 cases in 2001—a
38.7% decline. This significant decrease comes despite the DPH’s
claim in June 2000 that San Francisco was expecting a "sub-Saharan"
surge to 900 new AIDS cases in 2000, and despite DPH's assertions
elsewhere—as late as last month—that it expected a staggering
1,100 cases for 2001.
Why have AIDS officials and the media in San Francisco conspired
to squelch the good news about AIDS? Could it be that federal HIV
and AIDS prevention funds are at stake, and San Francisco's media
and AIDS officials want to ensure these funding dollars are not
curtailed? Or could it be that the DPH simply doesn't trust gay
men to behave if they know AIDS is not on the rise?
It seems the DPH prefers to demonize gay men and portray us as incapable
of acting responsibly with regard to our sexual health and well-being.
It seems the media and DPH believe scare mongering and fear tactics
work better than accuracy and full disclosure of facts when it comes
to AIDS and public health.