Call to Action: Help Spread the Word That Black MSM Are Disproportionately Impacted By Invasive Meningoccal Disease

Kellee Terrell

Diane Pascal

 Call to Action: Help Spread the Word That Black MSM Are Disproportionately Impacted By Invasive Meningococcal Disease

 Local organizations encourage Black gay, bisexual, same gender loving and queer men to be vaccinated for meningitis.

Chicago, IL (June 19, 2015)—Together, Affinity Community Services, Chicago Black Gay Men’s Caucus, Howard Brown Health Center and Taskforce Prevention and Community Services are ringing the alarm on a current health disparity impacting Black gay, bisexual, same gender loving and queer men in Chicago: Invasive meningococcal disease (IMD), a rare but potentially fatal communicable bacterial infection.

Recently, the Chicago Department of Public Health (CPDH) announced that of the six confirmed cases of IMD including one death, African-American  men who have sex with men (MSM) accounted for most of those cases. And while new CDPH recommendations call for ALL MSM to be vaccinated AS SOON AS POSSIBLE, it’s important to point out that the following have an increased risk for IMD:

  • Black MSM who are HIV-positive
  • Black MSM (regardless of HIV status) who use online “hook-up” apps
  • Black MSM who have anonymous sex
  • Anyone in sexual networks with any of the groups above.

 “This updated information from CDPH underscores the urgency for a diversity of non-profits, government and civic organizations in the city of Chicago to join us and heighten the response around this racial health disparity in our community,” says Kim L. Hunt, the Executive Director of Affinity Community Services.

The groups are calling for: 

  • Individuals to talk to their friends, loved ones and those in their sexual networks who are at risk for IMD and encourage them to receive their FREE vaccinations at one of many CDPH partner site throughout the city, including Howard Brown Health Center.
  • Non-profits and other organizations to collaborate with CDPH to help do their part by participating in the citywide vaccination efforts.
  • Individuals and organizations to use their social media accounts—Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.—to raise awareness around IMD and provide information on where to get vaccinated.

Sample Facebook posts:

Did you know that Black gay, bisexual, same gender loving and queer men in Chicago are at higher risk for a rare form of meningitis? Protect yourself, get vaccinated NOW!  #BlackGayLivesMatter #VaccinateNow

Of the six confirmed cases of invasive meningococcal disease (IMD) in Chicago since mid-May, African-American cisgender men accounted for a majority of those cases. IMD is serious and can be deadly. Protect yourself now by getting vaccinated.  #BlackGayLivesMatter #VaccinateNow

Sample Tweets:

Black gay, bi, SGL and queer men in Chicago: Get vaccinated for meningitis NOW! #BlackGayLivesMatter #VaccinateNow #CDPH 

Black gay and bisexual men are disproportionately at risk during this meningitis outbreak. Get vaccinated! #MeningVax

Vaccines against meningitis are free, safe and effective. Find a vaccination location near you. #MeningVax

About Invasive Meningococcal Disease (IMD)

IMD is a rare communicable bacterial disease that can cause meningitis, a severe disease of the brain and spinal cord, and other potentially fatal conditions. IMD is spread through intimate activities such as kissing and sexual contact or sharing drinks or cigarettes, smoking devices or marijuana. Common symptoms are fever, headache and a stiff neck. Other accompanying symptoms include nausea, vomiting, increased sensitivity to light and confusion.

Magda Houlberg, MD, Howard Brown Health Center’s Chief Clinical Officer stresses that this type of bacterial infection should not be taken lightly.

“About 10 to 15 percent of people with meningococcal disease die even with appropriate antibiotic treatment. Of those who recover, up to 20 percent suffer from some serious after-effects, such as permanent hearing loss, limb loss, or brain damage.” she stated.

Erik Glenn, the Program Manager at Chicago Black Gay Men’s Caucus echoes these sentiments and emphasizes what is at stake for the community if not enough people are vaccinated.

“The message is crystal clear. With Pride events in full effect and the increased opportunity of transmission, we must encourage and empower as Black gay, bisexual, same gender loving and queer men as possible to be vaccinated and treated for IMD before we find ourselves in the midst of a public health crisis,” he said.

Learn more about IMD with this CDPH Fact Sheet 

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About Affinity Community Services
Affinity Community Services is a social justice organization that works with and on behalf of Black LGBTQ communities, queer youth, and allies to identify emergent needs, create safe spaces, develop leaders and bridge communities through collective analysis and actions for social justice, freedom and human rights.

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About Chicago Black Gay Men’s Caucus
Established in 2005, Chicago Black Gay Men’s Caucus (CBGMC) mobilizes and empowers Black gay, bisexual, and same gender loving men to prevent new HIV infections. CBGMC offers sexual health programming that incorporates homegrown and CDC-sanctioned evidence-based interventions, cultivating spaces where Black gay, bisexual, and same-gender-loving men can share resources with each other, develop health promotion strategies, and be linked to appropriate health care services.

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About Howard Brown Health Center
Founded in 1974, Howard Brown Health Center (HBHC) is a Chicago-based health care and research organization primarily serving the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning/queer (LGBTQ) community and its allies. HBHC serves more than 27,000 adults and youth each year. A patient-centered health home, HBHC provides primary medical care, behavioral health services, specialty chronic and infectious disease services, and conducts community-based clinical and behavioral research.

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About Taskforce Prevention and Community Services
TaskForce is committed to addressing the environmentally systemic needs of disenfranchised adolescents living in communities with limited resources that provide HIV/AIDS prevention education, testing, treatment, and care services. 


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