German Magazine: Touch A Gay, Get A Disease

Jim Burroway

August 15th, 2008

A German Arabic-language magazine al-Salam is the latest to pick up on last January’s much-hyped MRSA scare. The free magazine distributed to restaurants and cafes around Berlin features an article titled, “A flesh-eating bacteria and sexual abnormality,” which reportedly claims that most gay men have deadly diseases, and that Muslims must not shake the hand of a gay man because: “one never knows what kind of bacteria and germs are found on them.” According to local news reports, the article is “couched in pseudo-scientific language, and accompanied with graphic photos of skin diseases.”

You may recall that last January, researchers from the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF) touched off a nationwide panic with their sensationalistic press release, which hyped a study conducted by UCSF of an outbreak of a drug-resistant staph infection among gay men in San Francisco and Boston. The staph infection, known as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is often transmitted by skin-to-skin contact.

Binh Diep, the study’s lead author, threw more fuel on the fire with several incendiary statements he made to news reporters, saying “this is a national problem, and San Francisco is at the epicenter,” and that “once this reaches the general population, it will be truly unstoppable.” Those remarks touched off a chain of panic-inducing headlines of “flesh-eating bugs” spreading among gays. In terms that were strongly reminiscent of rhetoric from the early 1980’s, the gay community was once again being blamed for yet another plague which threatened engulf the “general population.”

But it turns out that the real story is very different. Community-acquired MRSA has been around for decades, most often infecting athletes, including Miami Dolphins Junior Seau and Charlie Rogers in 2003 and Washington Redskins’ Brandon Noble in 2006. Dr. Holly J. Benjamin, writing for the Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine, has described MSRA as “the latest sports epidemic.” The problem has gotten to be so widespread that the CDC has published prevention measures written especially for athletes.

But that didn’t stop anti-gay extremists from hyping MRSA as the latest threat to the “general population.” Funny how high school and college athletes are excused from being such a threat. And now this same overly-hyped scare has jumped across the pond to Germany, where it has taken root in that country’s Muslim population.

UCSF offered a half-hearted apology for their role in fomenting the MRSA hysteria last January. This came after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a much stronger clarification, saying:

The strains of MRSA described in the recent Annals of Internal Medicine have mostly been identified in certain groups of men who have sex with men (MSM), but have also been found in some persons who are not MSM. It is important to note that the groups of MSM in which these isolates have been described are not representative of all MSM, so conclusions can not be drawn about the prevalence of these strains among all MSM. [emphasis mine]

UCSF’s self-serving press release however remains on their website.

Given the often-violent friction between Europe’s Muslim immigrants and the local gay communities, it is more important than ever for UCSF to take responsibility for the damage they caused in their sensationalistic publicity stunt from last January. Their irresponsible actions continue to reverberate around the world, and now German gays are in the crosshairs. UCSF has a special responsibility to aggressively pursue every instance in which medical misinformation is propagated in the press, especially when that press is bent on using this misinformation to further demonize a minority population.

You can learn the real story behind the latest MRSA panic in our report, “Testing the Premise: Is MRSA The New Gay Plague?”

Lynn David

August 15th, 2008

Places like UCSF have institutional blindness when it comes to their complicity in such matters. It takes someone such as yourself, Jim, to point out the ‘error of their ways.’ Good work!

Having had MRSA, I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. It took two months of vancomycin to knock it down in me. And the dang bug still persists, one is never rid of it.

C. diff is another general population bacteria that could also be pinned as “gay-related” since it is associated with the colon and more virulent in those with previous bowel disease. I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy as it brought me near to death earlier this year. But because I am gay? Nope, because I am human.


August 17th, 2008

This headline is misleading. It implies that a mainstream German magazine is making this claim, when in reality it is a marginal Islamic publication. Context, please!

Jason D

August 17th, 2008

“This headline is misleading. It implies that a mainstream German magazine is making this claim, when in reality it is a marginal Islamic publication. Context, please!”

How does “German Magazine” somehow imply mainstream? The words “Major German Magazine” or “Popular German Magazine” or “Influential German Magazine” might be misleading, but I fail to see how this headline is misleading…?

I didn’t assume, based on the title, that the magazine was mainstream or marginal. I figured I would have to actually read the post to find out what kind of German Magazine was printing this rubbish.

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