ST Forum: Irresponsible to suggest treatment based on one study (May 22, 2007)

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

ST Forum

May 22, 2007
Irresponsible to suggest treatment based on one study

I AM writing in response to Dr Alan Chin's letter, 'Figures speak for themselves: Practising gays have higher risk of HIV'.

He went to great lengths to provide statistical data that male-to-male sexual activities have resulted in a disproportionately high incidence of HIV transmission.

Considering this with his other key point that homosexuality is not an immutable trait and that we should not deny anyone the right to change, Dr Chin seems to suggest that gay men should exercise the right to change their sexual orientation in view of the health risks they face.

With discrimination faced by gay people in many societies, it is interesting that not more gay men have exercised the right to change their orientation by evidence that most self-identified gay men remain gay.

One wonders who in their right mind would choose to suffer societal rejection if there was a way out. If reparative therapy to change one's sexual orientation is so pervasively successful as Dr Chin claims (he has not provided any statistical evidence though), why is it not adopted by most medical practioners as a treatment for homosexuality?

It is irresponsible for a medical doctor to suggest a treatment based on one study. Dr Chin has conveniently ignored the comments made by the author of the study, Dr Robert Spitzer himself, in response to misuse of his study results as published in the Wall Street Journal May 21, 2001 (verbatim).

'In reality, change should be seen as complex and on a continuum. Some homosexuals appear able to change self-identity and behavior, but not arousal and fantasies; others can change only self-identity; and only a very few, I suspect, can substantially change all four.

'I suspect the vast majority of gay people would be unable to alter by much a firmly established homosexual orientation.

'I did not conclude that all gays should try to change, or even that they would be better off if they did.

'The issue here is not about the right to change one's sexual orientation. Since when has that right been denied?

As a medical doctor communicating his views in a public forum, Dr Chin should have presented a more robust analysis of a scientific study done by someone else, especially when there already exists a wide spectrum of professional opinions on the study in question.

Peter Goh Kok Yong