First the background. This research study was floating around the internet last week. It’s a piece of research which purportedly investigates the impact on heterosexual males who receive daily oral sex from gay men. In plain terms, it suggests there's a link between said regular blowjobs and lowering the risk of the recipients for developing some nasty things like prostate and testicular cancer. Specifically, straight men who lay back and enjoy are less likely to develop those nasty-sounding cancers than those who say" no thanks".
Now I’m a bit of a sceptic at heart, so I read through the article, apparently lifted from a scientific journal, and it seemed (somewhat) convincing, but then kind of fell apart as one continued to read through it. Trouble is, not everybody does. We are a headline-driven society, after all. We think in sound-bites. We have no time for the details.
Trace the article back to its source, though, and you quickly realize that not only do the conclusions of the research, and even its premise, sound ridiculous as hell, but - surprise, surprise - the source is bogus.. The story actually emanates from a website called bentspud.com. or bsnbc for short.. Read it here.
Notice the bs in the title? That might give you a clue to what the site is all about. It is in fact a (humour-based) site that specializes in distributing bogus news items.
Poke around the site and you’ll find that some of its news item are hilarious, and so, I guess, is the one about the blowjob-receiving straight men. The only problem I have is that stuff like this, however ridiculous, can sometimes achieve legitimacy if the sources aren’t investigated. I mean it fooled me, if only for a millisecond. But would it fool others? Perhaps.
Anyway, the subtext here is, I think, that it really helps to approach research findings with a critical eye. That comes, though, with knowledge of the real thing – how it looks, what is its methodolgy, what is its sample size, who are the investigators, etc. Those interpretive skills can be learned. Here's one way how.
The OHTN (Ontario HIV Treatment Network), the sponsor of and conduit for much HIV-related research in this province, holds a research conference in Toronto each November. It's an indispensable forum for researchers, workers in the field and community members (think pozzies) to come together for a knowledge exchange like no other.
I’ll be there next week, Brian too. And btw, Brian has reported on a hugely exciting collaboration between the OHTN and Positive Lite.com. His post announcing this is here.
I like the way the OHTN tries to ease community members like me in to the complexities of the conference agenda. This year in particular for instance, CATIE is sponsoring a special session prior to the conference proper, which helps community members navigate their way through the proceedings, better understand what they hear and - this is important - better able to disseminate research finding to others – to report back, if you will. Good stuff, I say.
In any event look for full coverage of the OHTN Research Conference as it unfolds, right here on Positive Lite.com.
Bye for now.