AHF’s ‘AirheadCelebs.com’ Campaign & Billboards Target Anti-vaccine Celebrities

On November 24, AIDS Healthcare Foundation will launch ‘AirheadCelebs.com,’ an advocacy campaign targeting the undue and oversized influence of Hollywood celebrities who are anti-childhood vaccinations.

First AirheadCelebs.com billboard, “Protect Your Child—Vaccinate” to go up in Los Angeles on Monday; campaign is an extension of AHF’s focus on a wider spectrum of public health issues beyond HIV/AIDS, including testing for other STDs and providing meningitis and other vaccines at its Wellness Centers.

LOS ANGELES (November 23, 2014) On Monday, November 24, AIDS Healthcare Foundation will launch ‘www.AirheadCelebs.com,’ a new advocacy campaign including a website and billboards targeting the undue influence of Hollywood celebrities who espouse anti-childhood vaccination sentiments. As part of the campaign, AHF’s first AirheadCelebs.com billboard, “Protect Your Child—Vaccinate,” will go up in Los Angeles starting Monday with initial key billboard postings in the Hollywood area. The campaign is an extension of AHF’s focus on a wider spectrum of public health issues beyond HIV/AIDS, including testing for other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and providing meningitis and other vaccines at its AHF Wellness Centers.

Over the past decade, the U.S. has witnessed significant erosion in both adult and childhood vaccinations, which has reduced what is known as ‘herd immunity’ or ‘community immunity’—a phenomenon that occurs when the vaccination of a significant portion of a population (a ‘herd’ or ‘community’) provides a measure of protection for individuals who have not developed immunity. The erosion in vaccinations nationwide has led to some subsequent tragic outcomes—many affecting children. The Anti-Vaccine Body Count website, which is based on federal statistics, says that since 2007, 139,199 Americans have come down with preventable illnesses due to lack of vaccination, with 6,265 deaths.

During this same timeframe, a number of high-profile Hollywood celebrities—individuals who have no public health or medical background—have identified themselves as anti-childhood vaccination proponents, some speaking out loudly and publicly. Among Hollywood celebrities who have opposed childhood vaccinations are actress Jenny McCarthy, perhaps the most well known anti-vaccine advocate (who reportedly has since distanced herself from the anti-vaccine movement); comedian and actor Rob Schneider, as well as actresses Alicia Silverstone and Kristin Cavallari.

“When it comes to fashion or style, Hollywood celebrities can knock themselves out trying to influence popular culture and trending topics in social media, magazines and on TV and online,” said Michael Weinstein, President of AIDS Healthcare Foundation. “However, when it comes to the importance of vaccines, many celebrities have a lot more to learn about these much-needed safeguards against disease and should get the facts before speaking out against them. Vaccination rates have plummeted, and diseases that were once nearly eradicated are making a comeback—sadly maiming and even killing some children and adults as a result. Why would anyone listen to a Hollywood celebrity—most of whom have no public health or medical training, education or experience—on such a critical issue?”

According to a March 1, 2014 article in The Week, a print and online magazine providing commentary and analysis of the day’s breaking news and events, titled, “The Worrying Rise of the Anti-vaccination Movement,”

“Their [vaccine skeptics and anti-vaccine proponents] fears are rooted in a now-discredited 1998 study by a British doctor, Andrew Wakefield, who claimed that the onset of autism in 12 British children was linked to their being vaccinated for measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR). But subsequent studies failed to replicate Wakefield’s findings, and an investigation found that his study was ‘an elaborate fraud,’ with deliberately falsified data.”

AIDS Healthcare Foundation, which began as a provider of hospice care for AIDS patients in Los Angeles in 1987 before effective anti-retroviral treatments to manage and treat HIV-infected individuals were available, has grown over the years to become the largest global AIDS organization currently providing medical care and/or lifesaving services to more than 362,000 individuals in 36 countries worldwide.

More recently, AHF has expanded its focus to include a wider spectrum of public health issues beyond HIV/AIDS including testing for other STDs as well as providing meningitis and other vaccines at its 14 AHF Wellness Centers located in eight states.

In addition, after the Ebola deaths of two physicians working for, or affiliated with AHF in West Africa (Dr. Sheik Humarr Khan, AHF’s Medical Officer in Sierra Leone, who died on July 29th; and Dr. John Taban Dada, a Ugandan national working for AHF’s partner organization in Liberia, People Associated for People’s Assistance or PAPA, who died on October 9th), AHF committed to delivering support and assistance to health care workers on the front lines fighting Ebola in Africa. This included donations of over $500,000 worth of personal protective equipment (PPEs), such as gloves, gowns, masks, booties, chlorine, body bags, etc. to the regional fight to contain Ebola.