The Metro Public Health Department is continuing its battle against Hepatitis in the Nashville area by hosting a free Hepatitis vaccination event at Play Dance Club on September 14, 2005, from 10 p.m. until 1:00 a.m.
The Hepatitis program in Nashville began in 2000 when gay men made up half of the Hepatitis A cases in Nashville. Historically, Hepatitis B has also been a fairly consistent problem in the gay community. In fact, Hepatitis B was integral in helping to identify the first cases of HIV infection.
“We started with Hepatitis A vaccinations in 2000,” says Brad Beasley, supervisor of the STD/HIV program for the Metro Public Health Department, “and in 2001 we added the vaccine for Hepatitis B. We added the combined vaccine product in 2003. The vaccines are free of charge to gay men, and are available at all our monthly bar testing events as well as our testing events at Outloud on the third Thursday of each month.”
There are many options available through the Metro Public Health Department to combat Hepatitis, including vaccinations for Hepatitis A and B for those who have had one series but not the other. For those who have had neither series, they offer a new combined vaccine product name Twinrix. The Hep B and Twinrix vaccines are a three injection series over six months, and the Hep A vaccine is a two injection series over six months. It is important to note that there is no risk of getting hepatitis from the vaccine and there have been no pronounced side effects.
The Metro Public Health Department is the only department in Tennessee to offer Hep A and Twinrix (the combined Hep A and B vaccine) free to gay men. Many other Tennessee health departments currently offer Hep B vaccinations through their STD clinics or primary care clinics for a fee.
Some of the symptoms of Hepatitis include jaundice, dense and dark urine, and gray or loose feces. All the hepatitis viruses attack the liver, affecting the balance of enzymes needed for digestion and other endocrine functions. While Hepatitis A is generally milder than Hepatitis B, both can result in chronic fatigue and last up to six months. With rest and medical care, recovery from Hep A and B is usually complete with resulting natural immunity to reinfection. However, there are cases of those with Hep B who become carriers of the virus. When this happens to an individual, the virus he or she is infected with won’t make him or her any sicker, but he or she can still pass it on to others. People who have had Hep A and/or B are also at risk for liver function complications. Scarring, or cirrhosis, of the liver is also common, and this can lead to decreased liver function or liver cancer later in life.
“I would like to remind those guys who aren’t sure if they completed the injections to give me a call or come by any of our events. Ample supplies of the vaccines are on hand. Once you’ve started, you can always finish the series, even if it’s been longer than a year,” says Beasley, “You will most always get some added benefit from the follow-up shots. Even if you think you are not at risk for getting Hep A or B, you never know when a potential partner might have an acute infection that he’s not aware of.”