Monkeypox: Beware of stigmatizing bi- and homosexual population groups, WHO warns

Great Britain – As news circulates that tends to associate monkeypox with strictly gay and bi populations, the World Health Organization (WHO) warns of possible stigmatization of these communities [1].

Wrong information

Some information about the monkeypox outbreak has focused on the fact that a significant proportion of recently reported cases have been found in gay and bisexual men. And yes, monkeypox can be spread from person to person through sexual contact. But it is not strictly a sexually transmitted disease and can also be transmitted through other close physical contact or through the clothing, bedding or kitchen utensils used by an infected person.

News circulating online attributing the disease to the gay community has drawn the attention of the WHO, which has warned of its “stigmatizing” effects. The latter called the claims false and clarified that “anyone who has close physical contact of any kind with a person infected with monkeypox is at risk, regardless of their identity, their activities, the people they are with has sex, or other factors”.

Stigma ‘just makes things worse’

She warned that “stigma will only make it worse and prevent this epidemic from ending as soon as possible”.

The United Nations agency, UNAIDS, expressed concern that some media commentary and reporting used language and imagery, including depictions of LGBTI and African people, that reinforced homophobic stereotypes and racists.

Stigma will only make things worse and prevent this epidemic from ending as soon as possible.

Matthew KavanaghDeputy Executive Director of UNAIDS, said the World : This experience shows that this type of stigma “weakens public health policies” and that it is up to “states and media to counter these messages by contrasting them with scientific information about the real risks of the disease”. “If we allow these types of messages to spread and take hold, there will be long-term consequences,” he added. A scientific approach offers a better chance of containing this epidemic.”

In addition, he emphasized that “this disease can affect anyone” and called on the media to base their coverage on the updates regularly published by the WHO.

“Remarkable Percentage”

On May 16, the UK Health Safety Agency (UKHSA) and the British Association for Sexual Health and HIV warned sexual health clinics about the possibility of community transmission of the smallpox virus among men who have sex with men (MSM). This decision follows investigations into four related cases, all of which have been identified as gay, bisexual or other MSM.

In a monkeypox update on Tuesday, the UKHSA announced a total of 71 cases so far and said a “remarkable proportion” had been seen in gay, bisexual and MSM people.

Corresponding dr Jake DunningConsultant in Infectious Diseases and High-Risk Infectious Diseases at the Royal Free Hospital in London, the reason for this phenomenon is still under investigation.

dr Dunning said that rather than speculating on why cases have so far focused on the gay and bisexual community, “it’s important to find out about sex history.”

He added that surveillance has already been put in place to check if cases are occurring in people who are not gay, bisexual or other men who have sex with men. “So we just have to wait for the data to come out,” he added.

Meanwhile, the WHO position is as follows: “The stigmatization of groups of people because of a disease is never acceptable. It can get in the way of stopping an outbreak because it can prevent people from seeking treatment and allow it to spread undetected. »

The article was originally published under the title Plea to Avoid Stigmatizing Gay and Bisexual Men Over Monkeypox. Translated and adapted by Stéphanie Lavaud.

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