Message from the Interim Health Officer for Los Angeles County
Jeffrey Gunzenhauser, MD, MPH
June 13, 2016
June 27th is National HIV Testing Day. The day is a great reminder to get tested for people who don’t know their HIV status or who may have been exposed to HIV since their last test. You can ask your primary care provider for an HIV test or you can get tested at one of many free HIV testing locations, available at this link: https://gettested.cdc.gov.
What is HIV?
Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is a virus that weakens a person’s immune system and can lead to AIDS if left untreated. HIV is spread through blood, semen, pre-ejaculate, and vaginal fluid when people share needles or have unprotected sex with someone who has HIV. Mothers with HIV can also give the virus to their babies during pregnancy, when giving birth, or while breast-feeding. HIV is not spread through casual or everyday physical contact.
Ways to prevent or lower the risk of getting HIV include:
What is PEP and PrEP?
PEP and PrEP are HIV prevention tools that protect against HIV in a way similar to how emergency contraception (aka the morning-after pill) and birth control pills are used to prevent pregnancy. PEP is medication a person takes within 72 hours (3 days) after exposure to HIV to reduce their chances of becoming infected. The sooner it’s taken after exposure, the more effective it will be. PrEP is a pill a person takes once a day to prevent HIV infection if exposed to the virus. Studies show that PrEP reduces the risk of HIV infection by up to 99% when taken as directed. PEP and PrEP do not protect against other sexually transmitted infections or pregnancy.
PrEP is a great tool to protect people who share needles or who do not use condoms every time they have sex with partners who may have HIV. People interested in getting PrEP should discuss it with their primary care provider or can seek care at a clinic with experience providing PrEP. PrEP medication is covered by health insurance plans, including Medi-Cal.
The Department of Public Health (DPH) now offers PrEP at Ruth Temple and North Hollywood Public Health Centers. The clinics help people who are at risk of HIV get started on PrEP. This fall, DPH will be funding several community health centers to provide PEP and PrEP for uninsured and underinsured persons. Last month, DPH launched its first-ever public education campaign, called “The Protectors,” to increase awareness about PrEP. To learn more about PrEP and see the campaign, visit
Alcohol is a huge continuing problem that affects many lives and can tear families apart. Alcohol is also the
second leading cause of premature death and disability in Los Angeles County, contributing to more than 1000 deaths every year
January is Cervical Health Awareness Month. It’s a great time to learn more about cervical cancer and ways to prevent this disease from affecting family and friends.
I would like to wish everyone a happy and healthy holiday season! I hope many of you are able to spend time with family and friends while enjoying and sharing your cultural traditions. To help you and your loved ones celebrate safely over the next few weeks, here are some tips and guidelines to keep in mind:
November 16-22, 2015 is Get Smart Week. The goal of Get Smart Week is to raise awareness about antibiotic resistance.
The 2015-2016 influenza season has started. Make sure you and your family are protected! Get your influenza vaccine now. Influenza, or the flu, is a virus that causes mild to serious illness.
Prescription drugs play a critical role in treating
people when they are sick or feel pain. It is also
very important to properly dispose of all unused or
expired medications. Unused medication can pose a
major health and safety risk if left in the home.
08/10/15 - Last Thursday the California Department of Public Health (CDPH)
announced a case of human plague in California. The patient lives in LA County and was hospitalized for the illness after a family trip to Yosemite State National Park and Stanislaus National Forest. Officials are still investigating where the individual may have contracted the disease.
07/06/15 - I am happy to report that new Ebola cases in West Africa have significantly declined due to the extraordinary efforts by healthcare professionals to care for infected individuals and reduce community transmission. The number of new weekly cases in West Africa has remained below 30 for several weeks and efforts remain strong to bring the epidemic to a closure as soon as possible.
04/22/15 - Progress continues to be made as the world responds to the Ebola epidemic in West Africa. Although the situation has improved greatly and the weekly number of new cases has fallen well below 100, we must remain vigilant until the number of new cases in affected countries reaches zero. Here in Los Angeles County, we continue to closely monitor individuals who travel here from affected countries and who may be at risk of developing Ebola.
03/17/15 - The world response to the Ebola epidemic in West Africa has decreased the number of new cases occurring there and there is hope that the epidemic can be stopped sometime this year. Here in Los Angeles County, we continue to closely monitor individuals who travel here from affected countries and who may be at risk of developing Ebola. We maintain our surveillance and actively monitor a small number of travelers each day who have
11/24/14 - Earlier this week the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) added Mali to the list of Ebola-affected countries, which continues to include Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. To date, more than 15,000 individuals have contracted Ebola during this latest epidemic and there have been 5,420 related deaths worldwide. In the United States, a second Ebola-related death occurred last Monday after Dr. Martin Salia was transferred to Nebraska Medical Center from Sierra Leone for medical care following several days of illness. His tragic passing highlights the critical importance of early intervention and care in recovery.
11/17/14 - Ebola outbreaks continue to affect Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone in West Africa with some new cases reported in Mali. While the rate of new cases in Liberia and Guinea has leveled off, the rate of rise in Sierra Leone continues to accelerate. To date, approximately 14, 000 individuals have contracted Ebola during this latest epidemic and there have been 5,160 related deaths worldwide. The World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will continue to monitor the situation and coordinate relief efforts to control the spread of infection. It is important to note that only two cases of Ebola have been exported from West Africa to other parts of the world, which is a testament to the effectiveness of the strategies that are in place to prevent spread. Those two cases are, of course, the case that was diagnosed in Dallas on September 30, and the more recent case in a physician in New York City who has recovered and been released.
11/10/14 - The Department of Public Health continues to coordinate efforts to ensure we have an effective strategy to respond to a potential case of Ebola in LA County. As part of these ongoing efforts, we met last week with the Hospital Association of Southern California and the California Association for Health Facilities. The meetings were held jointly with LA County Emergency Medical Services and provided hospitals and long-term health care facilities with an update on Ebola, our current activities, and response plans for LA County. Each meeting was an opportunity to strengthen partnerships and facilitate coordination with all health care providers who may play a role in identifying and treating an individual with Ebola.
11/4/14 - The State Health Officer from the California Department of Public Health recently issued a risk-based quarantine order for any individuals coming into California who had contact with a person confirmed with Ebola in Liberia, Sierra Leone, or Guinea. The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health will comply with the State’s order.
10/28/14 - Last week a doctor based in New York, who had treated patients with Ebola in Guinea, tested positive for Ebola. In Los Angeles County there are no confirmed or suspected cases of Ebola, and we remain prepared to respond should a case happen here.
10/21/14 - As the news continues to evolve around Ebola, I want to reassure all residents in Los Angeles County that, to date, there are
no suspected or confirmed cases of Ebola in Los Angeles County. This past week, we have worked diligently to update and strengthen our plans to address Ebola. We are more prepared today than we were yesterday, and we will be more prepared tomorrow than we are today.