BY Advocate.com Editors
September 24 2002 12:00 AM ET
GLMA: More than half of gay, bisexual men still not vaccinated for hepatitis
The Gay and Lesbian Medical Association announced Monday that although immunization rates for hepatitis A and B among gay and bisexual men continue to improve, more than half of men who have sex with men have still not been vaccinated against the viruses, which can be passed through sexual contact. GLMA president Christopher E. Harris says that in some cities the vaccination rates are "deeply troubling. We need to send the message that vaccines will prevent transmission. Save yourself the extreme discomfort of the illness, the lost work, the potentially dangerous complications, and possibly your life."
The GLMA data comes from a survey of 4,152 men at more than two dozen gay pride events around the country. On a national level, only 38% of respondents said they had been vaccinated against hepatitis A and 42% against hepatitis B. Seattle had the highest vaccination rates, with San Antonio the lowest, where just 15% of gay and bisexual men had been vaccinated against hepatitis A and 17% against hepatitis B. Other cities with vaccination rates higher than 50% included Atlanta and the Bronx, N.Y. Cities with vaccination rates under 30% for either hepatitis A or B included Austin; Syracuse, N.Y.; Pittsburgh; and Huntington, N.Y.
The survey also showed that those with health insurance and those who regularly see a health care provider were more likely to have been vaccinated. Patients who have told their doctors that they are gay or bisexual also were more likely to have been vaccinated.
"One factor seems apparent," Harris said. "In such cities as Seattle, where the department of public health conducted an aggressive hepatitis A and B immunization campaign, it worked. We urge all public health departments and community medical centers to increase awareness of the risks of hepatitis, the availability of vaccine, and to offer free or low-cost immunization to the public."
Hepatitis A and B are two serious liver diseases that can affect men who have sex with men at a higher rate than the general population. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and GLMA recommend vaccination for hepatitis A and B for all gay and bisexual men. For more information on hepatitis and hepatitis vaccinations, go to www.glma.org.