MRSA Gay USAJanuary 17, 2008
It looks like it is time for hysteria, histrionics, tongue-clicking, and finger pointing. What’s it all about this time? It’s a multi-drug resistant methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus MDR-MRSA, for short.
Oh. Is that all? MRSA has left the hospital and invaded our schools and the gym, and anywhere else humans happen to hang out. What’s with the panic?
Well, it appears that this particular strain of the bug is hitting the gay community, gay men in particular, pretty hard. Reuters reports on the study that points the accusatory finger at those bad boys with the fabulous clothes. The study says that certain geographical communities, and the health services in those communities that serve a relatively high population of homosexual men, are seeing an increase in the number of cases of the MDR-MRSA.
It seems that the hysteria is premature though. Numbers may be being twisted. Careful reading of other reports, like this NPR news story, indicate that the placing of blame may be misleading. The new strain of the infection is affecting only 20% of gay men who have contacted MRSA:
Among gay men with resistant staph infections, Diep says, about 20 percent in San Francisco and up to 50 percent in Boston “are infected with this more-difficult-to-treat form of USA-300.”
That is 20-50% of the population that has already contacted some form of MRSA has this new MDR-MRSA, and these numbers are from clinics that serve a higher number of gay men than other health clinics. The CDC states that 12% of clinical MRSA infections are community associated, and that this number varies by geographical location and population. This report from 2003 is already talking about MRSA moving out of the hospital, into the community, and into certain minority populations. It also warns that “We should not think of MRSA as either some type of super-staph infection or as a specifically gay health issue.” according to Kenneth Haller, MD, President of the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association.
It remains to be seen if the study by Binh Diep, a researcher at the University of California, San Francisco, and reported in the Annals of Internal Medicine is politically driven. However, it is clear that the religious fundamentalist groups with an agenda against the gay community are already latching onto this. It won’t take long for more to jump on the bandwagon. Even in the time it has taken for me to do the research for this article, the “news” articles from conservative and religious-based sources with anti-gay biases increases with each search I perform.
Sadly, it appears that we are in a DeLorean, travelling back to the 1980’s. The accusations of a new “gay” epidemic, and calls for quarantining the gay population are being raised once again. This time, we are educated, strong, and powerful. We will not let intolerance, bigotry, and homophobia wipe out another generation of gay men.