Letters to the Editor

Craig Covey responds

Thank you for the fascinating, well-written, and in-depth feature story on Detroit’s gay bathhouses and their relationship to health concerns and sexually transmitted diseases (“Steamed,” Metro Times, July 16-22).

We at the Midwest AIDS Prevention Project (MAPP) have advocated for many years for more discussion and debate on this topic that can so profoundly impact a community and its health. Whatever one’s position may be on bathhouses, most will agree that it is better to shine a light on the topic rather than bury it in the closet.

Writer Nate Cavalieri is obviously a courageous and intelligent reporter. Too few members of his profession are willing to take the risks and expend the energy for such a story. I only wish that I had had the opportunity to talk with him.

MAPP has a 15-year history in Michigan designing innovative and award-wining campaigns and projects to provide hard to reach at-risk populations with evidence-based prevention programs. We have a hard-working, dedicated and professional staff that will go almost anywhere at any time to reach the people most in need. It is not an easy task.

Our history with the TNT bathhouse has indeed been rocky for many years. While there is now, finally, outreach occurring there, it has taken years of prodding, cajoling and pressure to get the club to finally understand the importance of prevention education, harm reduction and health promotion.

While MAPP staff have been told in no uncertain terms that we are not welcome at the TNT, we are pleased that work is now being conducted there. Indeed, at a statewide meeting of health officials and AIDS community organizations in February of this year, we asked that other agencies take on that particular venue. It is through our close collaboration with county, state, and Detroit health departments, as well as ACCESS, that materials and testing are now available at the TNT.

Our position at MAPP is that while particular behavior choices rest with each individual, we do strongly believe that business leaders must show responsibility and concern for their customers. Indeed, there is every reason that a bathhouse, in its own interests, should provide health information, STD testing and free condoms.

Had I been reached for comment, I would have praised the TNT for its newfound interest in the health and well-being of its patrons. We have had an effective and solid relationship with the Body Zone, Detroit’s other bathhouse, for many years. Let’s keep the dialogue going on the merits or morals of bathhouse policies, but more important, let’s keep the education and awareness campaigns going throughout all venues in our community, including the TNT. —Craig Covey, CEO, Midwest AIDS Prevention Project, Ferndale

Why Dean can win

For Jack Lessenberry to call supporters of Sen. John Kerry “realists” while dismissing supporters of Vermont Gov. Howard Dean as “idealists” is just to recycle so-called “conventional wisdom” that history does not support (“Whose flag shall we fly?” Metro Times, July 9-16). Time and again, the American people have expressed a preference for sending governors with track records to the White House. Governors engage in the “presidential” functions of setting priorities and shaping the agenda. As Governor, Dr. Dean also balanced 12 budgets and expanded health care for citizens, which explains why Vermont voters re-elected him five times by comfortable margins.

Senators, by contrast, are not realists. They are insiders. Afflicted with Beltway Myopia and consumed by the Washington power game, they usually miss the big picture — and they seldom win the keys to the White House. After an election that left Democrats in Washington more politically impotent than they have been in 75 years, it defies common sense to believe that one of them could be an effective standard-bearer for the national party in 2004. These guys couldn’t even provide enough leadership to hold their own in Congress — how are they going to capture enough imaginations to grab the brass ring? —Gates Thomas, [email protected], Brooklyn, N.Y.

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