Monkeypox could spread more if treated as ‘gay plague’ – SASOD warns
Growing stigma has been attached to monkeypox globally because of its prevalence among men who have sex with men, but local rights advocate Joel Simpson believes that if the disease is wrongly deemed a “gay disease”, it could lead to greater spread.
Simpson is the Managing Director of the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD)- a rights organisation for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer (LGBTQ+) community.
Days after Guyana confirmed its first monkeypox case, a 57-year-old public transportation driver, Simpson acknowledged that there are already signs of the disease being stigmatised.
But he was keen on noting that there is no indication that Guyana’s first patient was involved in any same-sex intimacy. As such, he reasoned that the belief that monkeypox is a disease that will affect primarily the LGBTQ community is unfounded.
“If we continue to have that rise in stigma, where people feel it is a gay plague or gay disease, it is going to undermine our efforts to prevent the spread of monkeypox,” Simpson said during an interview with the News Room on Thursday.
He believes that mounting stigma could prevent infected people from seeking much-needed treatment. Increasing violence (hate-crime) against the LGBTQ+ community is also a fear.
To counter these concerns, Simpson is calling on the Ministry of Health to mount an intensive public education campaign to educate people on the spread and risk of monkeypox. He also offered SASOD’s aid as a partner in these efforts.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the risk is monkeypox is not limited to men who have sex with men.
“Anyone who has close contact with someone who is infectious is at risk,” the WHO stated in a release.
It added, “Stigmatising people because of a disease is never okay. Anyone can get or pass on monkeypox, regardless of their sexuality.”
It was explained that the monkeypox virus is spread through any close contact- whether touching or being face-to-face. As such, people should avoid close contact with anyone who is experiencing symptoms of monkeypox.
Those symptoms include skin rashes, fever, swollen lymph nodes, headaches, muscle aches and low energy.
The global body, however, acknowledged that the virus is being identified among men who have sex with men.