Health Advisory: CDPH Confirms African-American MSM Disproportionately Impacted By Invasive Meningococcal Disease

Kellee Terrell
Office: 773.388.8661
Health Advisory: CDPH Confirms that African-American MSM are Disproportionately Impacted
by Invasive Meningococcal Disease

Howard Brown Health Center urges Black gay, bisexual and queer men

to get vaccinated for meningitis as soon as possible.
Chicago, IL (June 15, 2015) — On Friday, June 12, the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) confirms that African-American men who have sex with men (MSM) are disproportionately accounted for the five cases of invasive meningococcal disease (IMD) that have been diagnosed since mid-May.  As a result, Howard Brown Health Center (HBHC) is encouraging the following African-American/Black gay, bisexual and queer men to be vaccinated for meningitis as soon as possible:
  • 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.
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, HBHC’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.
Houlberg added, “But that doesn’t have to happen to you. One effective way to reduce your chances of contracting meningitis is by receiving a meningococcal vaccination, which is simple and relatively painless.”
With Pride festivities underway, time is of the essence to get vaccinated and spread the word about who is at greater risk for IMD.
“During these summer months—especially around LGBTQ Pride—sexual contact is at an all-time high, which can spread this bacteria even further. Not to mention, meningitis can come swift and with a vengeance, so it’s imperative that we vaccinate enough people who are at risk and provide early treatment to those with IMD. Because if we don’t, we could see ourselves in the midst of a meningitis crisis,” Houlberg warns.
This new call targeting African-American MSM falls in line with the health advisory that CDPH released on June 3 that encouraged the following, regardless of race and ethnicity, to be vaccinated:
  • MSM who are HIV-positive
  • MSM regardless of HIV status who use online apps such as Grindr, A4A, Scruff, Jack’d, etc.
  • MSM who have anonymous sex
  • Transwomen who are HIV-positive
  • Transwomen (regardless of HIV status) who use online “hook up” apps
  • Transwomen who have anonymous sex
  • Cisgender and transgender women who report intimate activities with MSM and transwomen who are at high risk for IMD
“While everyone who fits into the target demographic should be vaccinated for meningitis, this new information confirming that Black MSM have a higher risk for developing IMD underscores the need to ramp up efforts to address this racial health disparity,” states Serette King, HBHC’s Manager of Outreach Services.
He added, “HBHC is committed to working with CDPH and other organizations that are solely geared for Black MSM to help educate and create the most effective and culturally competent outreach strategies in order to protect the most vulnerable from this potentially fatal disease.”
Thanks to the generosity of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and CDPH, Howard Brown Health Center is offering free vaccinations at all of our clinic locations:
Howard Brown Health Center Walk-In Clinic 
(No appointment needed)
4025 N. Sheridan Road
Monday – Thursday: Noon – 7 pm
Fridays: 9 am – 12 pm, 1 pm- 4 pm
Saturdays: 9 am – 2 pm
Broadway Youth Center
(Youth 12- 24)
Wellington Avenue United Church of Christ (WAUCC)
615 W. Wellington (at Broadway)
Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday: 3 – 7 pm 
Wednesday: 10 am – 6 pm
Howard Brown Health Center Primary Care 
(Locations by appointment)
Sheridan Road: 4025 N. Sheridan Road
Aris Health: 3245 N. Halsted 
Call 773.388.1600 to make an appointment
For community members who cannot travel to the Northside to visit one of HBHC’s locations, the CDPH has designated partner sites throughout the city, including the South and West sides, to provide FREE vaccinations to anyone who is at risk.
For a full list of CDPH partner sites 
Learn more about IDM with this CDPH Fact Sheet
# # #
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 medical home, HBHC provides primary medical care, behavioral health services, specialty chronic and infectious disease services, and conducts community-based clinical and behavioral research.


  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
This site is not optimized for Internet Explorer. Please consider viewing the site in a modern browser such as Edge, Chrome or Firefox.