LOS ANGELES COUNTY: Supervisors Respond to Syphilis Outbreak
The Los Angeles Board of Supervisors approved a $1.5 million emergency campaign aimed at combatting a recent outbreak of syphilis among gay men and promoting safe sex, the Los Angeles Times reports. The county health department will distribute 500,000 condoms to clinics and community groups in high-risk areas. After learning that some people perceive the federally approved condoms the county already distributes as faulty, the county will spend $50,000 to purchase a new brand. As part of the condom distribution effort, county officials also will encourage bathhouses and sex clubs to give condoms to their clients and screen them for STDs. The county also will launch a $250,000-$350,000 media campaign for two to three months and encourage increased tracking of syphilis in county jails, especially among female inmates and those placed in the "gay sections" of such facilities. Some activists criticized the county for moving too slowly. Kathy Watt of the Van Ness Recovery House said, "If we don't do something fast we'll have a really big mess." Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky reminded County Director of Public Health Dr. Jonathan Fielding that the county has the power to order sex clubs and bathhouses to distribute condoms to patrons and to close the establishments. But Fielding said that the establishments "had been highly cooperative and said the county wanted to work with them and ensure they voluntarily distributed condoms before taking legal action that could be tangled up in the courts" (Riccardi, 4/12).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.