Michael Crawford

Gay Sex Panic and Drug Resistant Staph

Filed By Michael Crawford | January 16, 2008 12:55 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: gay men, gay sex, MRSA, staph infections

Now that drug resistant staph infection has been found among gay men all of a sudden its big news with much wringing of hands and warnings about gay sex. Never mind that there is nothing inherently "gay" about the ways that MRSA is spread. But, why let that get in the way of "good" story involving gay men, sex and disease?

Journalist Sean Bugg makes a great point about the panic (?) over drug resistant staph infections and the finger pointing at gay men.

What's interesting is that 19,000 Americans died in 2005 from MSRA infections, mostly in hospitals, but it's when someone suspects it's spread through gay sex that the warnings go out. But I get really pissed when I read quotes like this from the doctor who led the study, Binh Diep: "Once this reaches the general population, it will be truly unstoppable."

Um, sorry to point this out, but when 19,000 people are dying, mostly in hospitals, from staph infections and 95,000 cases of infection are showing up annually, it's already in the general population. It's not a question of gay men having sex or physical contact -- it's a question of the rampant misuse and over-prescription of antibiotics. But instead of facing up to those facts, what we'll have is another rash of stories like 2003, where local television stations send camera crews to gyms and talk ominously about the sexual behavior of gay men.

As expected, Matt Barber, one of the men behind Concerned Women of America, quickly jumped on the "blame The Gays" bandwagon.

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.

In a swift response Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, smacked him down.

We've come to expect hysteria and gross distortions from an organization like this and normally their bigoted rants don't even warrant a response. But the statement today about MRSA is beyond the pale. In typical fashion, they disregard the facts and instead chose to demagogue the issue in order to fear-monger. Serious medical issues deserve serious consideration, not wildly off-the-mark press releases from anti-gay groups trying to capture media attention. We saw this kind of hysteria in the early 1980's around HIV/AIDS, I'll be damned if we will sit idly by in 2008 and let them perpetrate that type of anti-gay hysteria without calling them out on it.

Yes, MRSA is spreading among gay men, but it is also spreading among heterosexuals and likely from both sexual and non-sexual activities. MRSA is spread by skin-to-skin contact and by touching contaminated surfaces. And no matter what kind of sex you are having and what gender/s you are having it with, it is pretty hard to have sex without some skin-to-skin contact.

There is a clear need for more study to find out what populations are most at risk, what are the social factors involved in the spreading of the infection and what are will be the most effective educational messages to stop the spread of the disease.

Washing with soap and water is an effective method for preventing infection.

The authors of the MRSA article in the Annals of Internal Medicine admit that their study has limitations among them that

The data were passively reported or retrospectively collected and are therefore subject to bias.

Health officials must do a better job of figuring out who is most at risk and why and informing the public about the way MRSA is spread and how to prevent it without demonizing gay sex.

The mainstream media must do a better job of asking questions and reporting facts without participating in anti-gay hysteria.

And gay men must engage in a honest discussion about how our community's social practices may contribute to the spread of MRSA among gay men and how we can better protect ourselves and each other from becoming infected.

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Great look at this issue, Michael!

I have been following this for sometime now.
It's enough to make you go overseas for elective surgery. The figures you quoted are actually not accurate they don't take into account the prison system and that something on the order of 5% of the prison population has MRSA. They represent another major contribution to MRSA in the general population....

But the fun is just beginning There is about a hundred or cases of VRSA now in US hospitals.
You can find more about VRSA Here

From what i have read Vancomycin was the last antibiotic able to effectively stop staff.
Things are sure going to get interesting....

Take care

Michael it absolutely correct. This is Sicko redux. These infections are the price we pay for a systems that puts ‘cost/benefit analysis’ ahead of patient survival.

They’re not gay infections; they’re nosocomial infections; infections acquired in a healthcare setting. MRSA (Invasive methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), VRE (Vancomycin-resistant enterococcus) and VRSA and all examples of bacterial infections spreading out of control because of nonexistent or inadequate bacteriological control measures in hospitals, urgent care centers and nursing homes. They're showing up in surgical wound infections, respiratory infections, genitourinary infections, and GI tract infections.

The bacteria that cause these infections are everywhere and they're readily spread in conditions or crowding, intimacy and especially in heath care facilities. Most of the nosocomial infections occur in hospitals etc. and are directly caused by bad planning which results in medical staffs using sloppy or nonexistent adherence to basic hygiene practices like hand-washing, cleaning of facilities and devices, and training in the best way to insert invasive devices like IVs and catheters.

Only two new drugs are available to replace vancomycin, methicillin and cloxycillin . They are Linezolid, part of a new class of synthetic antibiotic with the trade name Zyvox and a class of broad range antibiotics called Carbapenems. The danger is that these hospital administrator caused infections will spiral into the general population. In congested areas that could lead to the death of many children, the eldery and people with immune suppression questions.

Sue. Bad news. The problem is just as bad in some EU countries. It's just an example of what happens with overcrowding. (Most of this is from my bf, the doctor.)

there have been a couple of schools closed in Southern California so they can be disinfected.
The problem is already out of hand.
I might add In in Mexico antibiotics are available over the counter people living along the southern border and in Mexico obtain these antibiotics and use them with little or no knowledge of what they are treating. they also will use them sometimes for legitimate deceases however will use them for two or three days not killing the infection but making it stronger. This has shortened the useful service life of many antibiotics. So here we are back in the 19th century again. The best preventive seems to stay away from people as much as possible.

Oh Well The WHO says there is a thirty percent chance we will have the human to human H5-N1 this next winter. when it hits that level of transmission it will be world wide in less then one hundred hours. Lets hope we ride this stuff out. The last big flue pandemic took with it just over one percent of the human population at the time (1918)

I almost forgot..
Do you know one thing they stopped doing in hospitals and doctor's offices that made a big difference?? I would bet you can't guess in a 100 years. The door knobs and cabinet fixtures were made of copper, Copper like Silver is antibacterial, Bacteria dies on contact.

when i went to Thailand to have my birth defect fixed the hospital there and the clinic all had copper door knobs. The ER (here in the US) i was in for a dog bite the year before had stainless steel.

Take care
wash your hands often.

Bill Perdue | January 17, 2008 2:49 AM

Sue, I'm a regular Lady MacBeth when it comes to washing my hands and I always have a supply of alcohol wipe packets when I visit a medical facility. Alcohol is a very efficient antimicrobial.

These new drugs are promising and more are in the pipeline but each generaltion of antibiotics has side effects. It's like the beginning of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, when highly toxic drugs like AZT and co-trimoxazole (Bactrim) produced gruesome and toxic effects on their own from overdosage and drug intolerance. All my friends hated AZT.

Thanks for this great post Michael...

If you are interested, please check out our post on MRSA that tries to quell the hysteria and report just the facts, ma'am.... (novel, eh?)

Shock horror, superbug fears greatly exaggerated

http://lifelube.blogspot.com/200...rs- greatly.html

We also have a very nice, calm fact sheet from the CDC linked there, as well as another fact sheet from the NY State Dept of Health...

As we all know, MRSA can be passed through any kind of contact, including but not limited to sex. In fact, it is more likely to be spread through casual contact, say, spotting your buddy at the gym, or from a towel or surface.

The link I posted in my previous comment may not have been complete.... Here is the correct link to our LifeLube post on MRSA that may be interesting to Bilerico readers:


Good post, Michael. Of course the rightwing is already trying to use it as a bludgeon. Check out our local fundies: Troubling Report Of 'Gay Superbug" Shades Of Early AIDS Crisis.

Congress also made other mistakes, including, chiefly, declaring AIDS the first disease in American history to have civil rights. I fear tens of thousands died because of that political correctness that prevailed, principally pursued by then Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee Chairman Henry Waxman, D-Beverly Hills. If the news account below is accurate, more than 20,000 Americans have already died from this new "super bug."

This has an eerie similarity to the initial reports of AIDS. I hope and pray there is not another forthcoming 'super bug' disease anyone has to deal with, including gay men or lesbian women. As a Christian, my compassion goes out to anyone who is ill, and I wouldn’t wish a debilitating or deadly disease on my worst enemy. If we face a similar crisis, however, it is imperative that clear-headed medical science prevail as we respond to a sexually-transmitted disease, should that turn out to be the case.

At least he was kind enough not to wish us dead in a public blog posting...

the best defense has always been a good offense.
Lets hope the new drugs do the trick and have some staying power.

You can't fight evolution and win, all you can do is keep up.

Take care
Be well