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Health officials live a fine line as monkeypox spreads within LGBT community

Health officials live a fine line as monkeypox spreads within LGBT community


To combat the monkeypox outbreak, state and city governments are trying to spread awareness of the disease, which has hitherto mostly affected men who have sex with men, but avoiding the stigma. While doing so, we are advancing at a fine line.

“The tightrope walk you’re trying to walk is to keep people from seeing it as just a gay male disease, but not to startle people and deplete the resources they need to go to those who need it most right now.” Will Gedel, a professor in the Brown University School of Public Health, told The Hill.

The first American case of monkeypox was discovered almost three months ago in Massachusetts, where Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said Thursday. monkeypox officially declared become a public health emergency in the United States.

The total number of monkeypox cases in the United States has reached more than 7,000, concentrated in New York, California and Illinois. Each of these states has issued its own emergency orders to more efficiently distribute resources, such as vaccines and tests, as demand increases.

But even in parallel with the state of emergency declaration, authorities were cautious about their message.

subtle approach

“We know this virus affects everyone equally, but we also know that people in the LGBTQ community are at greater risk right now. Our LGBTQ community A lot of people in the city are scared and frustrated,” said San Francisco Mayor London Breed (D). said in a statement last weekafter declaring a public health emergency in the city.

San Francisco Public Health Officer Susan Phillippe said in an interview with The Hill that it’s important to bring awareness and education to the most at-risk and vulnerable communities.

“…no cases have yet been confirmed in children under the age of 8 or in pregnant persons. The health of men, gays and others, and the LGBTQ community is extremely important. It was an important point that I wanted to convey with the importance of things,” Philippe said.

She added that in San Francisco, the virus is disproportionately affecting Latinos, making it important to strengthen ties between these communities and public health agencies.

“It is very important that we do not blame groups for making them understand how to access services such as vaccines, treatments and tests so that they can get information from us and our community partners with peace of mind.”

Massimo Pacilli, deputy commissioner of the Chicago Public Health Department and the city’s monkeypox lead, said the focus is on awareness, education and interventions.

Pasiri said his department’s message was based on “ensuring that we do not blame those affected by the virus” and instead “focused on protection and intervention to stop transmission. ,” he said.

Not just abstinence anymore

Part of the effort to not perpetuate social stigma was the messaging strategy of not asking members of the LGBT community to restrict their sexual partners. This strategy was commonly used by government officials at the height of her HIV/AIDS crisis in her 1980s and his 90s, when the virus was dubbed the “gay plague.”

“It’s very easy for governments to want to crack down on same-sex sex very quickly. It’s just second nature to them,” said Gödel of Brown University.

Monkeypox is spread by prolonged contact with its characteristic lesions. Sexual contact is thought to precede many infections, but officials have repeatedly stressed that the virus is not a sexually transmitted disease and that contact with sexual fluids is not necessary for its spread.

Philippe pointed out that adopting abstinence as a public health strategy doesn’t work and can often be counterproductive because community members don’t listen to other guidance from authorities.

Phillips said public health outreach includes how the disease is transmitted, what the virus is, what symptoms it has, how best to prevent transmission, and the “importance of vaccines.” said to contain information about

Tyler TerMeer, CEO of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, said his organization works closely with the city’s public health department to spread messages that promote sex positivity.

“We have the following perspective. [it] It’s not our role to tell people what to do or not to do, or tell them to stop having sex with monkeypox threats… about how to stay safe.

In contrast, last week the head of the World Health Organization Men who have sex with men are advised to reduce the number of sexual partners They “for now” reconsider sex with a new partner.

A virus-prepared community

The history of the LGBT community with the spread of HIV/AIDS has been ugly. As TerMeer says, generations were wiped out by the lack of federal response.

“Our country’s initial response to HIV is a very complex and tragic story, worthy of a memoir, and truly a stain on American history,” he said.

HIV’s legacy has led generations of LGBT community members to become active in health interventions and preventive care, but experts admit the community is not a ‘monolith’, and there is no consensus on vaccines and treatments. Some members may still feel uneasy.

Public health departments across the country are partnering with organizations like TerMeer’s to reach out to members of their communities.

Pasiri said these STI and HIV partners are “naturally connected to the many community-based organizations and venues that have also reached out to this community.”

“The experiences and lessons learned from the HIV/AIDS epidemic have been many and profound, and have inspired a holistic approach to public health, the careers of those who serve in this field, including myself, and how we engage and serve our communities. Ashwin Vasan, Commissioner of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Health, said in a statement to The Hill:

“A human rights-based approach that respects the dignity of people is essential, and these lessons are embedded in monkeypox response planning and execution, whatever the operational or logistical challenges,” Vasan said. rice field.

Where the United States currently stands in the monkeypox response

The federal response to monkeypox is challenging as local health departments wait for more vaccines and treatments to become available through the federal government.

The Biden administration has faced criticism from supporters and lawmakers who say the federal government’s response to the outbreak has been inadequate as the number of cases rises and demand for vaccines and tests surges.

Sen. Patti Murray (D-Washington) and Alex Padilla (D-California) are among those who expressed concern. Padilla encouraged officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Centers for Health and Human Services to increase the flow of monkeypox vaccine to his state.

So far, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved an additional 800,000 Jynneos vaccines for use. This is a smallpox injection manufactured in Denmark by Bavarian Nordic, which is also used to prevent monkeypox. The FDA also proposed a way to split the Jynneos vaccine by five to increase the supply of injectables.

But TerMeer said the damage caused by the federal government’s slow response has already been done.

“It cannot be overstated at this point, but monkeypox is causing extreme distress and fear, anxiety and real pain in our communities. Governments have been slow to respond to the outbreak,” he said.

Becerra said Thursday that the White House was ready to take the U.S. response to the “next level” when declaring a public health emergency. The official declaration is expected to make resources more readily available to combat the monkeypox epidemic.

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