Meningitis: AHF Calls on L.A. County Public Health Officials to Step Down over Poor Handling of Cases

AHF is calling on Cynthia Harding, MPH, Interim Director, Los Angeles
County Department of Public Health and Jeffrey Gunzenhauser, MD, MPH,
Interim Health Officer, Los Angeles County Department of Public Health
to step down due to the County’s woeful response to meningitis and other
health issues.

Three years after Dr. Jonathan Fielding retired as the Director and
Health Officer for Los Angeles County, AHF cites a lack of meaningful
action and transparency by these interim County officials, hostility
toward community involvement, parsing of words and a lack of timely
health alerts by the County.

LOS ANGELES–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Officials from AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) are calling on Cynthia
Harding
, MPH, Interim Director, Los
Angeles County Department of Public Health
and Jeffrey
Gunzenhauser
, MD, MPH, Interim Health Officer, Los Angeles County
Department of Public Health to step down from their interim positions
due to the County’s woeful response and handling of cases of meningitis
that have disproportionately impacted the gay and MSM communities over
the past three years.

“For more than two years there has been an unexplained surge in
meningitis cases among gay men but the L.A. County Department of Public
Health has neglected to keep the community informed and has not worked
as closely as necessary with community providers,” said Michael
Weinstein
, President of AIDS Healthcare Foundation. “Since April of
this year, the Department has known that there was a new wave of cases
among gay men, but did not make an announcement despite the fact that
Pride Celebrations were impending in Orange County, Long Beach and West
Hollywood. The first ‘Health
Alert’
came June 24th—two weeks after the West Hollywood
Pride where hundreds of thousands gather. The County is asleep at the
wheels in its response to this potentially deadly—and recurring health
threat.”

Officials from AHF will formally call for Harding and Gunzenhauser to
step down during Tuesday’s L.A. County Board of Supervisors’ Meeting
during which Supervisor Sheila Kuehl will introduce a motion
calling for a stepped up community awareness and vaccination plan.

Among AHF’s primary concerns:

  • There is still no definitive plan for mass vaccination for meningitis
    with community partners.
  • There is no plan to address the sharp rise in STDs, particularly
    syphilis. No ad campaign; no funding to scale-up testing and
    treatment; no community meetings.
  • Lack of public announcements about measles, pertussis and Zika virus.
  • Vast unspent funds in HIV programs, including under-spending the
    Minority AIDS Initiative (MAI).
  • No public campaigns regarding childhood vaccination despite the fact
    that herd protection was being lost over the last several years.

“It has been more than three years since Jonathan Fielding announced his
retirement,” added Weinstein. “A national search is urgently needed to
fill this critical position as well as for the medical director
position. The health and wellbeing of our community across the spectrum
of populations is simply too important.”

About AIDS Healthcare Foundation
AIDS
Healthcare Foundation
(AHF), the largest global AIDS organization,
currently provides medical care and/or services to over 666,000
individuals in 36 countries worldwide in the US, Africa, Latin
America/Caribbean, the Asia/Pacific Region and Eastern Europe. To learn
more about AHF, please visit our website: www.aidshealth.org,
find us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/aidshealth
and follow us on Twitter: @aidshealthcare.

Contacts

AHF
Ged Kenslea
Telephone: (323) 308-1833
Mobile: (323)
791-5526
gedk@aidshealth.org
or
Christopher
Johnson
Telephone: (323) 960-4846
Mobile: (310) 866-9913
Christopher.johnson@aidshealth.org