San Francisco Official Criticizes Congressional Inquiry of HIV-Positive Health Department Employee Who Admitted to Having Unprotected Sex
A San Francisco health official has "lashed out" against a congressional inquiry into the "sexual practices" of Seth Watkins, an HIV-positive city health department worker who "admitted" in a New York Times interview two weeks ago that he has practiced unprotected sex with "anonymous partners," the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Steven Tierney, director of HIV prevention for the San Francisco Department of Public Health, said that "although he does not condone unsafe sex, [Watkins'] private sex life is his business." Tierney added, "Why a congressional committee is interested in the private sex life of a 24-year-old HIV prevention worker is beyond comprehension." The Chronicle reports that Watkins' admission that he has engaged in unprotected sex has "reignited the debate over strict adherence to condom use as a means of HIV prevention." Roland Foster, staff member of the House Subcommittee on Criminal Justice, Drug Policy and Human Resources, wrote in the inquiry, "At a time when many experts believe HIV is on the verge of resurgence, I would hope that [the San Francisco health department] would take immediate steps to send a message to the public that this behavior is not only unacceptable but deadly." Tierney said that the health department does not have a policy on "barebacking" -- anal sex without a condom -- adding that he would not recommend a policy because "it might encourage the behavior." Watkins has said that he now tells all of his partners that he has HIV. "I tell people even I messed up. Condoms don't always feel great, but you're the only one who can protect yourself and if you choose anal sex without a condom you are putting yourself at risk," he said (Heredia, San Francisco Chronicle, 9/8).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.