AHF: L.A. County Finally Acknowledges Meningitis Threat-Two Years Late

Published: February 17, 2015

Original Article:  bit.ly/1LbueF3

Two years after a deadly strain of bacterial meningitis killed two Los Angeles gay men and a San Diego student, Los Angeles County Department of Public Health officials finally acknowledge the threat gay men and men who have sex with men (MSM) face from invasive meningococcal disease. Los Angeles County health officials are now surveying area medical providers asking if they know the County Department of Public Health recommends meningococcal vaccination for “…all HIV infected men who have sex with men (MSM) and MSM with certain risk factors,” a recommendation it first made in April 2014. The other risk factors for vaccine recommendation include, “…MSM, regardless of HIV status, who have multiple partners or who regularly have close or intimate contact with other men met either through an online website, digital application (‘app’), or at a bar or party.”

“Officials here [in Los Angeles] have thus far been reluctant to do the same.”

In 2013, while Los Angeles County health officials quibbled with community health providers and advocates about labeling the deadly meningitis cases a ‘cluster’ or ‘outbreak’ to describe cases that killed three MSM in Southern California and seven MSM in New York, AHF mounted an aggressive free meningitis vaccination campaign in Los Angeles. In the span of one week (April 15-22, 2013), AHF provided 3,357 free meningitis vaccines to the community. At that same time in New York, “…the city’s health department issued a warning … urging all men who regularly have intimate contact with other men to be vaccinated for meningitis,” according to The New York Times. However, the Times’ article also noted that, “Officials here [in Los Angeles] have thus far been reluctant to do the same.”

“While L.A. County health officials were debating the semantics of what to actually call the group of meningitis infections that was killing some gay men and MSM in Los Angeles in 2013, AHF was providing over 3,300 free meningitis vaccinations to potentially at-risk individuals in the community,” said Michael Weinstein, President of AIDS Healthcare Foundation. “AHF was first on the vaccination front in 2013 and we are now glad to see that Los Angeles County has come around; however, County health officials need to step up and focus even greater attention on meningitis in these populations. The issue with meningitis and the gay and MSM communities is that there are several strains of meningitis, and men at risk should be given the opportunity to get free vaccines from the County’s Department of Public Health. Gay men are extremely over-represented in these meningitis case numbers in Los Angeles and those of other cities. The CDC and the NIH, in conjunction with local health departments, should really be studying the issue far more intensively.”

Full text of article available at link below:  bit.ly/1LbueF3

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