By Sunnivie Brydum
Originally published on Advocate.com April 15 2013 5:01 PM ET
Brett Shaad, a 33-year-old attorney living in West Hollywood, Calif., died Saturday after being diagnosed with a deadly strain of bacterial meningitis. Shaad's brother, Brian, says his brother's death was made even more difficult on the family by false rumors and misinformation that was widely reported after a city councilman addressed the press on Friday.
After thanking friends and community members for supportive and compassionate messages over the past weekend, Brian Shaad issued the following statement to clarify the situation surrounding his brother's death; (all text is as written, via Instinct magazine).
No words can describe the loss we just experienced, Brett was nothing but heart and he loved his family and his friends with an unconditional love we were privileged to experience. He will be deeply missed forever.
As many of you may be aware there has been huge amount of misinformation about the time, circumstances and details of my brother's death driven by a politically-motivated council member and inaccurate media reporting. This was started by sensationalist and erroneous public statements made by Councilman John Duran of West Hollywood, which were then reported by Ari Bloomekatz of the LA Times, and subsequently put out internationally by the Associated Press. This information was issued by Duran on pure rumor and innuendo. At no point was our family contacted to confirm the information publicly stated by Councilman Duran - and at no point did Ari Bloomekatz of the LA Times or the Associated Press reach out to our family to confirm the facts.
To add insult to injury, the first article published wasn't even about my brother Brett. It was about Councilman John Duran, alongside a large, color photo of the Councilman in the LA Times.
Other than basic information like my brother's name, age and occupation, the rest of Duran's statement and the media articles that followed were factually incorrect, including the time of his death; day admitted to hospital; status of life support; and the strain of meningitis in question. In fact, the strain mentioned has killed heterosexuals and homosexuals alike since cases in NYC were first reported in 2010. This is not a gay desease.
With regards to his attendance at the White Party in Palm Springs we have no evidence he even attended the party, as Councilman Duran claimed.
At a time when we should bave been focused totally on Brett's care, our family spent a huge amount of time and energy trying to correct the news reports that resulted from Duran's statements.
Eight days have now passed since Brett's first symptoms, and this still remains an isolated case. My brother is not the Patient Zero to an epidemic that Councilman Duran made him out to be. The article below, from the Huffington Post gets it right.
The irresponsibility of Councilman Duran, the LA Times and the Associated Press in announcing the death of my brother before we even had the chance to tell family members and his friends outside of Los Angeles is outrageous. There are a number steps we will be taking to ensure that politically-driven actions by politicians and reckless reporting by the media can never do this to another grieving family again.
In response to community concerns, the AIDS Health Foundation announced Sunday that it will provide free meningitis vaccines to gay, bisexual, and men who have sex with men at several of its Los Angeles locations. People with HIV, or anyone who thinks they may have been exposed to meningitis, can get vaccinated at no cost at three of AHF's Los Angeles locations beginning Monday, April 15. Find additional information, including addresses for each clinic, here.