by Fred Kuhr
Newspapers often face criticism from readers. In this instance, however, the reader was Wilton Manors-based South Florida Gay News’ own editors. And the newspaper gladly published the criticism.
Sean McShee, SFGN’s HIV editor, took issue with the main headline on the cover of the newspaper’s May 8 issue, which read, “Loyal Lovers Live Longer.”
But according to McShee, the headline was misleading and obscured the importance of a recent HIV study.
“The study did not show that ‘loyal lovers lived longer.’ It showed that undetectable equals untransmittable,” McShee wrote in a critique published in SFGN’s May 29 issue. “When antiretrovirals suppress HIV, current health is maintained, and transmission becomes impossible. The study said nothing about ‘loyalty,’ or monogamy. The problem lies in the main headline, not in the story.”
The original story reported on a Lancet article about an eight-year study that examined, among other things, 782 mixed-status gay male couples. The viral load was suppressed in all of the HIV-positive partners. Of the HIV-negative partners, 15 acquired HIV. However, when you compare the strains of HIV, there was no evidence of transmission within the relationship.
Researchers “inferred sexual contact outside the relationship,” wrote McShee. “The article had no data about whether the couples had open or closed relationships. If they had an open relationship, ‘loyalty’ becomes an irrelevant concept.”
“This study provided more strong support for the Undetectable = Untransmittable movement,” he added. “The larger headline stressed a side issue that the study did not address.”
Norm Kent, SFGN’s publisher, noted that he had no problem printing McShee’s critique. “SFGN is open to criticism from anyone, anytime, anyplace, even our own writers,” said Kent. “We’re a community newspaper and your voices will be heard.”
IN THE NEWS