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On monkeypox, UNAIDS expresses concern about stigmatizing language against LGTBQIA people

With the World Health Organization receiving reports of over 90 laboratory-confirmed cases and 28 suspected cases of the monkeypox from 12 countries outside of West and Central Africa where it is endemic, caution is now being advised in the possible linking of the same disease to members of the LGBTQIA community.

Photo by daniel james from Unsplash.com

AIDS redux?

With the World Health Organization (WHO) receiving reports of over 90 laboratory-confirmed cases and 28 suspected cases of the monkeypox from 12 countries outside of West and Central Africa where it is endemic, caution is now being advised in the possible linking of the same disease to members of the LGBTQIA community.

In the 1980s, in the early days of AIDS, responses were partially slowed by the misconception that the syndrome only affected members of the LGBTQIA community, which was then largely discriminated. AIDS was even initially termed “GRID” (gay-related immune deficiency), “gay compromise syndrome”, “gay lymph node syndrome”, “gay cancer”, “gay plague” and “homosexual syndrome” – among others.

Now with monkeypox, and as an example, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that while anyone can get or spread monkeypox, a “notable fraction of cases” are occurring among gay and bisexual men.

But UNAIDS Deputy Executive Director Matthew Kavanagh stressed the need to be watchful when linking the disease with any particular population.

“Experience shows that stigmatizing rhetoric can quickly disable evidence-based response by stoking cycles of fear, driving people away from health services, impeding efforts to identify cases, and encouraging ineffective, punitive measures,” Kavanagh stated.

Monkeypox is a viral disease that is similar to smallpox, even if considered clinically less severe, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Monkeypox is transmitted from one person to another by close contact with lesions, body fluids, respiratory droplets, and contaminated materials like beddings. The incubation period of monkeypox is from 6 to 13 days, though this can range from 5 to 21 days.

While monkeypox infection is akin to that of ordinary smallpox, a feature that distinguishes infection with monkeypox from that of smallpox is the development of swollen lymph nodes (lymphadenopathy), which may be generalized (involving many different locations on the body) or localized to several areas (e.g. neck and armpit).

A person with monkeypox can be contagious from one day before the rash appears until up to 21 days after symptoms began. When the scabs fall off, that person is no longer contagious, according to the CDC.

“We appreciate the LGBTI community for having led the way on raising awareness – and we reiterate that this disease can affect anyone,” Kavanagh added.

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Since monkeypox is related to the smallpox virus, the smallpox vaccine can protect against monkeypox, according to the CDC.

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