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Comments: Week of July 28, 2014

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1.“This summer—on social media, on Fire Island, at the Christopher Street pier, and in certain cohorts around the country—what many gay men are talking about among themselves is Truvada,” Tim Murphy wrote in an article about the drug that has proved highly effective in blocking HIV infection—and hence HIV anxiety—but that has sparked anxieties of its own (“Sex Without Fear,” July 14–27). On Twitter, Jamilah King said the story would be “the best thing you’ll read all day”; Steve Akehurst called it “beautifully ­written, ­poignant”; and Ronnie Scott described it as an “essential read, on the ‘collective sexual psychology’ of Truvada.” That picture of “collective sexual psychology” was built from a series of portraits, spanning several generations, of gay men, each reckoning in his way with years of sexual trauma brought on by HIV and AIDS and with what it might mean for such trauma to recede. (“Bravo,” wrote another reader in an email. “You do what you are best at, covering something really important that everyone else ignored, giving it human faces.”) But at least one reader thought the story was blasé in its attitude toward other STDs. “It is so dangerous to post this article with the headline ‘Sex Without Fear’ and to promote raw sex when there is still the threat of hepatitis C, gonorrhea, and syphilis,” he wrote, adding, “I am in continual shock with the revisionist false nostalgia about pre-HIV sexual freedom. There was never a period ­pre-HIV where gay men were ‘free’ to have ­unprotected sex.” At the New York TimesUpshot, Josh Barro also took issue with the statement that the drug has been “shown in a major study to be up to 99 percent effective” when taken daily. “This is a claim I hear thrown around a lot among gay men in New York,” he wrote. “And it’s wrong. The 99 percent figure isn’t a study ­finding; it’s a statistical estimate, based on a number of assumptions that are reasonable, but debatable.” He suggested that the true number was closer to 90 percent—a significant improvement on the 70 percent risk reduction attributed to condoms, but not quite a fail-safe method. On the more optimistic end, Mitchell Warren, executive director of an HIV-prevention organization, AVAC, wrote on the Huffington Post that the “poignant accounts by PrEP users and providers” have offered “hope that this new strategy will save and improve many lives, just as researchers and advocates have long hoped.”

2.“This @benjwallace profile of ­@kara­swisher is sharp, fascinating, flattering to them both,” wrote the New York TimesBruce Feiler of Wallace’s portrait of Silicon Valley’s most powerful journalist (“Kara Swisher’s Source Code,” July 14–27). One of Swisher’s rivals, Paul Carr of Pando Daily, was happy to see that Wallace didn’t give in to “the meme of [Swisher] as someone who doesn’t care who she upsets, or who doesn’t kiss anyone’s ass,” he wrote on Pando. But some readers on our site wondered whether the profile was too kind. “Has Swisher hired NYMag as her personal press agent?” one asked. “The subtext of the article is just how inbred Silicon Valley really is. Who is financing her? Someone needs to take a sharp lance to the entire ­venture/angel financing con jobs that are being fobbed off to investors. Sadly Kara Swisher is not the person to do this—too much of a need to be in with the in crowd.”

3.“Of the lurking schisms within the Democratic Party, the one that cuts to the bone is education reform,” Jonathan Chait wrote in a column suggesting the issue might split an otherwise remarkably unified left (“Waiting for Super-Schism,” July 14–27). “A minor family quarrel,” countered one reader: “The vast majority of teachers will continue to vote Democrat. They know which side their bread is ­buttered.” Others thought Chait should have disclosed that his wife, who once worked in public school, now works for a charter, which he typically does when writing about education reform. (“It would have been nice for Chait to let his readers know about that,” wrote one blogger on myFDL.) “Eliminating tenure would hurt kids in struggling schools the most,” argued one reader, while another criticized the column for its focus: “While I understand that its primary subject is politics, its neglect of the question of what actually works for students is deeply troubling.”

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