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Hepatitis vaccine
awareness project expands to major cities

Hepatitis vaccine
awareness project expands to major cities

"Hep Teams" aim to raise vaccine awareness among gay and bisexual men

The "Hep Team," a hepatitis awareness program that aims to educate gay and bisexual men about the importance and availability of hepatitis A and B vaccination, is expanding to New York, Los Angeles, and Atlanta this summer. The project kicked off with a pilot program last summer in Chicago.

"The success of the Hep Team's pilot program in Chicago proves the value of talking directly to at-risk populations in culturally appropriate terms," said Joel Ginsberg, executive director of the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association, in a statement. "We believe expanding this program into other major cities will produce the same encouraging results and provide a national model for preventing this disease among men who have sex with men."

Although hepatitis A and hepatitis B are the only two vaccine-preventable sexually transmitted diseases that are prevalent among gay and bisexual men, research shows only about half of gay men have been vaccinated. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that all sexually active gay and bisexual men be vaccinated against hepatitis A and B.

The "Hep Teams" in New York, Los Angeles, and Atlanta will partner with city health departments and community-based organizations to launch public information and vaccination campaigns that include free vaccinations at gay pride festivals, advertisements, Web sites, and other promotional items. In addition, outreach worker also will visit bars and clubs and other community events throughout the summer in each city to promote vaccine awareness.

New York City project partners include the city Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and the Callen-Lorde Community Health Center; in Atlanta, project partners include the Fulton County health department and AID Atlanta; in Los Angeles, the county Department of Health Services, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, and the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center are serving as team partners.

Hepatitis A and B can both be transmitted through sexual contact. Oral-anal contact, or rimming, carries a high risk of hepatitis A infection. Hepatitis B can be transmitted through unprotected anal or vaginal intercourse, sharing sex toys, and sharing needles.

Symptoms of hepatitis A include fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, and jaundice. Hepatitis A typically does not become a chronic disease; it generally runs its course in six to eight weeks. Hepatitis B symptoms include severe fatigue, nausea, vomiting, fever, muscle aches, and jaundice. It can lead to cirrhosis, liver cancer, and possible death.

For more information about the Hep Team projects, visit each city's Web site at:,, and (The Advocate)

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