AHF Meningitis Vaccine Billboards Go Up: It’s “Just a Prick”

In response to a current outbreak of meningitis in Southern California that is disproportionately affecting gay men, AIDS Healthcare Foundation is launching ‘Just a Prick,’ a new billboard advocacy and awareness campaign targeting Los Angeles area gay men and men who have sex with men (MSM) with a message about the importance of meningitis vaccinations, which are offered for free throughout L.A.

LOS ANGELES (August 10, 2014) AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) unveils its newest billboard advocacy and awareness campaign this week focusing on meningitis prevention by vaccination, particularly among gay and bisexual men as well as men who have sex with men (MSM)—populations that have been disproportionately affected by a recent meningitis outbreak in Southern California.  

AHF’s billboard campaign, with the provocative headline, “Just a Prick” features a close up photo of an individual getting a vaccine shot. The URL ‘www.freeMeningitisVAX.org’ appears beneath the “Just a Prick” headline on the right side of the billboard. The billboards are intended remind people that meningitis poses a threat to certain populations in Greater Los Angeles today and to encourage people who may be at risk to get vaccinated, for free, against the potentially deadly disease.

The billboards come in response to a call by Los Angeles County public health officials urging all gay and bisexual men as well as men who have sex with men (MSM) in Los Angeles County to get vaccinated against meningitis. The County’s call comes during a current outbreak of meningitis in Southern California that is disproportionately affecting gay men. According to an August 5, 2016 LACDPH Health Alert issued by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, there have been 15 meningococcal infections found to date in individuals in Los Angeles County in 2016; of these, eight (8)—or 53%—were found in gay or bisexual men or MSM.

“For the past several weeks AHF has been partnering with the County and other agencies in Los Angeles to provide free meningitis vaccinations to the public in response to this most recent outbreak of the disease. Recently, the Los Angeles County health officials expanded the target population for its recommendation for meningitis vaccination to include all gay and bisexual men in the County. To date, the County hasn’t been able to fully promote its expanded recommendation as well as the availability of free vaccinations from the County and many other care providers in the community,” said Michael Weinstein, President of AHF. “We believe these billboards, which are intentionally provocative, are an eye catching way to make more people aware about this serious public health issue as well as the availability of free vaccines from both the County and many providers and community groups throughout the County.”

“Invasive meningococcal disease is caused by the bacterium Neisseria meningitidis, which can affect the bloodstream and lead to meningitis. Infections can progress quite rapidly and can cause brain damage, hearing loss, loss of limbs and even death,” said Dr. Michael Wohlfeiler, Chief of Medicine/US for AHF. “Outbreaks of serogroup C meningococcal disease among MSM have been reported in communities including New York City, Los Angeles County and Chicago since 2014. Unfortunately, the total number of invasive meningococcal disease cases in Los Angeles County for 2016 now stands at 15, eight of whom are MSM. While we don’t quite know why, gay men are extremely over-represented in these meningitis case numbers in Los Angeles and we urge all individuals in this target population to get vaccinated.”

“We also urge the CDC and the NIH, in conjunction with local health departments like L.A. County’s Public Health Department, to study the meningitis issue and these specific cases in Southern California far more intensively in order to determine if there is anything more to the disproportionately high number of gay and bisexual men affected during this and previous meningitis outbreaks here,” added Whitney Engeran-Cordova, Senior Director, Public Health Division for AHF.

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. In addition, a comprehensive list of other community providers offering free meningitis vaccines in Greater Los Angeles is included at the end of this release.

“Just a Prick” meningitis vaccination billboards are up in the following four (4) locations in Los Angeles:

  • Vine at Santa Monica Blvd., NW corner
  • Sunset Blvd. at Van Ness, NE corner
  • Sunset Blvd. at Cahuenga, NE corner
  • Hollywood Blvd. at Hillhurst, SW corner

In 2013, a deadly strain of bacterial meningitis killed two Los Angeles gay men and a San Diego student and seven MSM in New York. At that time, 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.

HEALTH NOTE: The meningitis vaccine provides protection for five (5) years, so any individual who may have been vaccinated during the cases or outbreaks reported in 2013 or 2014 does NOT need to get a booster shot or be re-vaccinated now. In addition, clients who are HIV positive will need a booster shot in 8-12 weeks, Healthvana will be able to notify those clients electronically to return for the booster.

AHF also Launched Zika Prevention Billboards in South Florida

In addition to its new meningitis vaccination billboard campaign in greater Los Angeles, AHF continues its push into the broader public health spectrum by addressing other issues beyond HIV and AIDS.

Last week, AHF also launched a Zika prevention billboard campaign in South Florida, where AHF provides HIV/AIDS treatment, care and services. The Zika billboard campaign, which has been in the works for several weeks, began last week with billboards appearing adjacent to the Ft Lauderdale International Airport as well as in the city of Fort Lauderdale. The campaign touts the role of condoms in the possible prevention of transmission of the Zika virus. The billboard artwork features the horizontal silhouette of an unfurled condom on a white background. Superimposed over the condom is the headline, “Prevents Zika Transmission,” addressing the fact that sexual transmission is one common method of transmission of the virus. The billboard also includes a link to the website: www.useacondom.com.