Arrests of ‘Denialists’ a Positive Sign for AIDS Activism and Prevention, Op-Ed Says
Last week's arrests of San Francisco AIDS activists Michael Petrelis and David Pasquarelli could "mark a turning point in the faltering effort to prevent" HIV transmission among gay men, Gabriel Rotello writes in a Los Angeles Times op-ed. Rotello, a columnist for the Advocate and author of "Sexual Ecology: AIDS and the Destiny of Gay Men," says that there is "no serious scientific dispute" about the fact that "[v]irtually every index of HIV transmission is up" and unsafe sex is on the rise among gay men. However, "denialists" such as Petrelis and Pasquarelli accuse researchers of "twist[ing]" data to show increases in HIV infections and charge the media with "publicizing bogus studies in an attempt to demonize gay men," he writes. These tactics "might seem like a sad little sideshow but for the alarming fact that [they] have tended to work," Rotello states, adding that some gay men have come to believe denialist theories and the denialists' threats and harassment have led some prevention workers and epidemiologists to leave the field. But the arrests of Petrelis and Pasquarelli have "prompted a new spirit of resistance" and could reverse this trend, Rotello says. He notes that scientists and journalists have joined together to "insist" that intimidation be stopped, people have "demanded prosecution" for activists who perpetrate threats and harassment, and gay men "shocked" by the denialists' "extremism" are pondering whether "the whole denialist cause is fundamentally flawed." Rotello concludes that "the impulse to prosecute, and the public outrage behind it, can only be for the good" (Rotello, Los Angeles Times, 12/3).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.