With Florida state and federal health officials reporting this week that a total of 42 cases of Zika infections have been confirmed in the state so far, AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) unveiled on Wednesday a new double-billboard in Miami Dade—near the Wynwood neighborhood where officials say the virus is spreading—to promote condom usage as a way to prevent transmission of the Zika virus. On Tuesday, Florida announced four new cases of Zika in Wynwood despite aggressive spraying for weeks for the mosquitoes that carry the virus.
Located alongside Route I-95, three-tenths of a mile north of I-395 in Miami, the double billboard features the image of an unfurled condom on each side and the words “Prevents Zika Transmission” and “Why Worry?” superimposed over the images. A cutout of a large mosquito is perched at the top of the billboards that direct to the website www.preventZika.com.
This most recent Zika virus public awareness billboard campaign paid for by AHF launches a week after local officials from the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau (GFLCVB) moved to remove a similar billboard near the near the Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood International airport and in the city of Fort Lauderdale, citing community complaints.
“These billboards reiterate AHF’s commitment to educate the public about transmission methods of the Zika virus,” said AHF Southern Bureau Chief Michael Kahane. “Despite the local challenges we have faced in getting this important public health message out in Broward County, all of our residents need to know in no uncertain words that the Zika virus can be transmitted sexually and that condoms do in fact offer the best protection against sexual transmission of ZIka.”
AHF launched the initial prevention campaign following the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) unprecedented travel warning for a Miami neighborhood after a handful of Zika infections were found in individuals who had been bitten and infected by local mosquitos. Following their placement, the billboards received significant praise from the Florida Department of Public Health which applauded their important and impactful message.
“We again call on Congress to fully fund efforts to combat the growing threat of the Zika virus in the United States,” said AHF President Michael Weinstein. “Instead of acting quickly to allocate dollars for prevention and to help affected areas, our elected officials only delayed and then ultimately cheaped out on providing much-needed funding before jetting off on their summer recess, leaving local officials scrambling to control the Zika virus outbreak with limited resources. How is this best serving the public interest in the face of a confirmed health crisis?”
In a Sunday New York Times editorial (Aug. 20th) by Kelly McBride Folkers, a research associate at NYU Langone Medical Center, Folkers writes, “One of the scariest things about Zika is that it can be transmitted both by mosquitoes and by sex — vaginal, oral and anal. In the history of epidemics, it is unprecedented for a virus to be spread through an insect vector and sexually. It means that Zika could continue to infect people after the mosquitoes go away. My generation in particular should be concerned, because the devastating birth defects Zika causes are a threat to our ability to have healthy children.”
Furthermore, CDC head Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, the head of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, called Zika “an unprecedented emergency” in an article recently published in The Journal of the American Medical Association.
“Never before, to our knowledge,” Dr. Frieden wrote, “has a mosquito-borne virus been associated with human birth defects or been capable of sexual transmission.”
AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), the largest global AIDS organization, currently provides medical care and/or services to over 611,000 individuals in 36 countries worldwide in the US, Africa, Latin America/Caribbean, the Asia/Pacific Region and Eastern Europe.