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Right-wing uses MRSA to bash gays
Politicizing health issue recalls early AIDS tactic

by David Stout . Q-Notes staff

Wayne Besen: ‘The hysteria from the right is reminiscent of how they exploited the HIV crisis in the early ’80s for political gain.’
Photo Credit: Willliam Wayborn
NEW YORK, N.Y. — Earlier this month, Reuters News Service reported on a drug-resistant strain of MRSA (methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus) affecting gay men in urban centers, such as Boston and San Francisco. The story received wide coverage from media outlets and health organizations who treated it like any other aspect of the growing health concern.

For anti-gay groups, however, the news presented an opportunity for fear-mongering and spreading smears.

Matt Barber, policy director for Cultural Issues with Concerned Women for America, viciously attacked gay people. “Citizens, especially parents, need to stand up and say, ‘No More! We will no longer sit idly by while politically correct cultural elites endanger our children and larger communities through propagandist promotion of this demonstrably deadly lifestyle.’”

Wayne Besen, executive director of TruthWinsOut.org, a non-profit group that counters right-wing propaganda, immediately fired back. “The comments by Concerned Women for America is hatred in its rawest and ugliest form. These wing-nuts wasted no time seeking the spotlight and creating a climate of panic and fear. They are factually wrong, morally wrong-headed and tragically addicted to bigotry.”

Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese was equally forceful in his response, “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 about MRSA is beyond the pale.”

Anti-gay Peter LaBarbara, director of Americans for Truth, used the situation to call for a government crackdown to “reign in homosexual promiscuity.”

In a statement he asked, “Why won’t the news media make the common-sense connection between these frequent stories about (male) homosexual behavior and disease — to the idea that perhaps it’s probably not smart for society and pop culture to celebrate homosexuality and bisexuality?”

Besen countered that the only link to be found is between homophobic groups and their willingness to exploit health issues for their own ends.

“This disease is a result of the overuse and abuse of antibiotics, which has led to strains of MRSA that are drug resistant,” he said. “The hysteria from the right is reminiscent of how they exploited the HIV crisis in the early ’80s for political gain. If there is any dangerous lifestyle, it is that of religious fanatics who have caused untold misery, war, death and repression across the globe.”

Solmonese added, “We saw this kind of hysteria in the early 1980s 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.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, MRSA kills 19,000 Americans annually. Q-Notes published a Health & Wellness column devoted to MRSA in the Jan. 12 issue. The piece can be read online at www.q-notes.com, search for keyword “MRSA.”

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