An unusually high number of meningitis cases among local gay men has prompted the BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) to give free vaccinations for all men who have sex with men in the Lower Mainland.
In the last two months, the BCCDC has recorded six cases of meningitis among gay men-three of which have been fatal. None of the infected men knew each other or frequented the same places. That’s why the centre is urging all gay men to get vaccinated and stop the infection before it spreads further within the community. Readers can get the shot from local physicians, health centres and community organizations (see list below).
The BCCDC says the vaccination is safe for all ages and for HIV-positive people. But it takes 10 days to fully kick in and protect people. So local health authorities are also urging gay men to protect themselves, in the meantime, by not swapping saliva until the infection has stopped spreading within the community. The bacterium which causes meningitis (meningococcal C) is transmitted mainly through saliva and can spread through kissing on the lips, sharing drinks, glasses, water bottles, eating utensils, toothbrushes, cigarettes and joints. It can also be carried in the penis and transmitted through oral sex. The BCCDC is also recommending condoms for oral sex until the number of cases stops climbing.
If you have already been infected, the infection does not have to be fatal. Most people do not even get sick (which is why all potential carriers must be vaccinated). But if you do feel sick-if you get a bad headache, a stiff neck, begin vomiting, get confused, and are feeling very sick-go to your local emergency room immediately. Other symptoms can include fever or a skin rash of tiny reddish-purple bruise-like spots.
The following places are among many offering free meningitis vaccinations to gay men, bisexual men and men who have sex with men:
The Bute St Clinic (at The Centre, 1170 Bute St) -no appointment needed.
Spectrum Health (1080 Howe St) 604-681-1080.
North Community Health Centre (200-1651 Commercial Dr) 604-253-3575.
STD Clinic (655 W 12th Ave) 604-660-6161.
WHAT ABOUT ELLEN?
Vancouver Mayor Larry Campbell likes working with Tim Stevenson enough to ask the gay city councillor to join him in the new “rump” of a party he created Dec 14 within COPE. How long Stevenson will be part of that rump depends, of course, on how his plans play out in his challenge to gay Liberal MLA Lorne Mayencourt in the next provincial election. Noticeably absent from Campbell’s new boys club is lesbian city councillor Ellen Woodsworth. It’s no secret that Campbell is no fan of Woodsworth’s perspective on things like the Olympics (she opposed them), a rapid-transit line to Richmond (she opposed it) and slot machines at the PNE site (she opposed them). Still, Woodsworth is much respected in the queer community and in other activist communities. It could prove difficult to find other gay candidates willing to offer themselves to Campbell’s team if Woodsworth isn’t on the same slate.
On Dec 9 the Supreme Court of Canada declared that the feds have jurisdiction over marriage, churches don’t have to perform same-sex marriages if they don’t want to, and the provinces cannot invoke the Constitution’s notwithstanding clause to prevent same-sex marriages within their borders. Within hours, Alberta Premier Ralph Klein and some Conservative and Liberal MPs demanded a national referendum. No, replied Prime Minister Paul Martin, this is a matter of human rights and government must not subject human rights to majority rule.
Moments later, Martin appeared to forget his own human-rights argument and said Liberal caucus members could vote with their conscience. Cabinet members, though, would be expected to vote for the forthcoming government bill.
Just a few days later, federal justice minister Irwin Cotler threw another wrench in the works when he asked that provinces not require civic authorities to perform gay marriages if it were contrary to their religion or belief-giving government employees the same status that churches enjoy.
Manitoba and Saskatchewan governments say they will require civic authorities to perform same-sex marriages or quit their jobs. BC started to do the same earlier this year, then revoked it. BC now requires commissioners who refuse to do same-sex marriage ceremonies to refer gay couples to a commissioner who will.
LESBIAN NOW PARKS CO-CHAIR
Lyndsay Poaps, the lesbian commissioner of Vancouver’s Park Board, was elected vice-chair Dec 13.
Poaps is an educator and facilitator with Check Your Head, a youth-driven organization she co-founded in 1999. She is chair of the park board’s culture and recreation committee and has focussed on issues of youth engagement and empowerment. She is a first-term commissioner elected in the COPE sweep of 2002.
Ecologist Eva Riccius is the new chair of the parks board.