WTF? Meningitis Message Missing Young Gay Men of Color
BY MIGUEL ZAPATA | I’m a 20-year-old young man of color living on the Lower East Side. I was raised by my mother who is from the Dominican Republic. I’ve worked in retail sales of trendy clothes since I was 17. I am trying to get back to college and I think I want to become a social worker. I like helping people and listening to them and maybe making a difference in their lives.
I came out at the age of 16 and have been sexually active since the age of 14. I’m single, enjoying the single life and the New York City nightlife. I like going out to parties and I’m looking forward to my 21st birthday in two weeks. It’ll be exciting to be in bars and mingle with people and being able to have a drink without being carded.
Before this week when my mentor brought up the meningitis outbreak, I had never heard of such a thing and never believed that I could be at risk.
Today I visited the New York City Department of Health webpage and I was shocked by the statistics and how at risk I am. I was shocked to learn that gay men are most at risk and that the Department of Health is now recommending that sexually active gay and bisexual men statewide should get vaccinated. I’m traveling to Los Angeles this weekend to see a friend and I am saddened and surprised to learn that a few weeks ago, a 33-year-old man from West Hollywood died from meningitis four days after being diagnosed.
What he f—?
Why haven’t my peers and friends and I heard of this outbreak? Why isn’t there more information on the subject? My friends and I are all sexually active and most of them aren’t practicing safe sex. This is a big issue in my community, especially with gay men of color because there aren’t messages about these types of things or even about safe sex for us.
I haven’t heard about this from anyone until now. I haven’t heard anything in Spanish. I haven’t heard anything from anyone that looks like me. This is a big problem. The Department of Health needs to get it together and inform more people in our community about this outbreak ad how to practice safe sex.
I don’t know how to create a pubic health campaign, but this is what people like me need to know: We need to be informed about meningitis and how it’s contracted.
This is something serious happening in my community, among gay and bisexual men who are sexually active. Prevention and information about this needs to be spread and talked about more so that it gets out and reaches everyone in our community, and doesn’t leave out young gay men of color who are at real risk, like me.
This is an outrage.