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Hep Team Kicks Off New Campaign
by Andrew Davis

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Summer is approaching, which means ( among other things ) that Chicago's Hep Team—in partnership with the Chicago Department of Public Health and various community-based organizations—is going to hit the season's LGBT-related events in an attempt to make sure that the area's men who have sex with men ( MSM ) are protected against hepatitis A and hepatitis B.

Moreover, this year's appearances will come on the heels of the news that the United States Food and Drug Administration ( FDA ) has approved an accelerated dosing schedule for GlaxoSmithKline's Twinrex, the only hepatitis A and hepatitis B combination vaccine available throughout the nation. ( There is currently no vaccine for hepatitis C. )

The bumped-up schedule will help gay men who are not yet immune from the vaccine-preventable strains of hepatitis, a viral disease that affects the liver. According to Amy Maggio, Hep Team Chicago publicist, the schedule will 'accelerate coverage and is a good option to consider when managing your health status. It is also a good option to consider when you have to travel and make immediate decisions about required vaccinations. This vaccine option is tailor-made for travel. [ Overall, ] the dosing schedule is far more favorable for compliance.'

'Hep Team survey data over the past few years clearly shows that there is a growing and measurable awareness about the need for vaccination for Hepatitis A and hepatitis B,' Maggio added. 'In 2006, over 700 doses were administered through event sites in the LGBT community through the team at the Chicago Department of Public Health. In addition, many more doses were requested and given through private providers, clinics such as Howard Brown Health Center.'

Here is how things will work: Each person who receives a vaccine during the Hep Team Chicago campaign will get a record so that he or she can keep track of when to get follow-up vaccines. ( Twinrix is now available on a dosing schedule of day 0, day 7 and days 21-30 [ one time only through 21-30 ] , followed by a booster dose at 12 months. ) Afterwards, people can get vaccinated at private providers or at agencies such as Howard Brown Health Center. Following the schedule will ensure maximum protection.

People can receive an initial vaccine at any of several summertime events, including Windy City Black Pride, Montrose Rocks ( June 24 ) , Northalsted Market Days ( Aug. 11-12 ) , Pridefest ( June 23 ) and Lovefest ( Aug. 26 ) . Maggio stressed that it is more important than ever men get vaccinated, partially because 'they've seen a decrease in infection rates among all populations—except MSM..'

For more information—including vaccination sites—see .

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