AIDS foundation unveils ‘just a prick’ billboard to fight meningitis

Photo courtesy

Photo courtesy http://www.freemeningitisvax.org/

In the latest step against Southern California’s meningitis outbreak, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation unveiled a billboard campaign Wednesday that urges gay and bisexual men to get vaccinated.

AHF’s billboard campaign, with the provocative headline “Just a Prick,” features a close-up photo of someone getting a vaccine shot. The URL “www.freeMeningitisVAX.org” appears beneath the headline on the right side of the billboard.

Billboards are going up at Vine Street and Santa Monica Boulevard; Sunset Boulevard and Van Ness; Sunset and Cahuenga; and Hollywood Boulevard and Hillhurst Avenue.

Michael Weinstein, president of AHF, said when a public health problem is threatening to spread rapidly in the community, “you’ve got to land on it before it explodes.”

“And that’s why we are both having this public awareness campaign as well as asking people to be vaccinated,” he said.

Top health officials in the Southland have urged all gay and bisexual men to get vaccinated against meningitis, regardless of their risk profile.

Nineteen cases of invasive meningococcal disease have been diagnosed in Los Angeles County this year, including six in Long Beach. Pasadena, which also has its own health department, has not seen any cases this year.

Given the total number of cases here and in other jurisdictions, the state has declared an outbreak.

Previously, health officials had recommended vaccination for gay and bisexual men “who regularly have close or intimate contact with multiple partners or who seek partners through digital applications, particularly those who share cigarettes/marijuana or use illegal drugs.”

Meningitis vaccinations are also recommended for all HIV-infected people.

Free vaccinations are available at public health clinics for those at high risk, regardless of health insurance status.

AHF will offer free meningitis vaccines at all four of its Southern California AHF Wellness Centers (Hollywood, Long Beach, San Fernando Valley and West Adams) as well as at three AHF Pharmacy sites (Long Beach, Sunset Blvd. and West Hollywood). It will also offer the vaccine at the Clinica Bienestar in East Los Angeles.

Health officials said people can also help prevent the spread of the disease by not sharing drinks, utensils, food, toothbrushes, cigarettes, cigars or pipes; and not having multiple kissing partners.

Meningococcal diseases is a rare, but serious disease. The illness that most people are familiar with is meningitis. It can start with flu-like symptoms, then progress to high fever, headache, stiff neck, confusion and rash. People who experience these symptoms should seek medical care immediately.

The disease is fatal in about one in 10 patients.

More information can be found at http://publichealth.lacounty.gov.

—City News Service