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 Research Investigator
(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.



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