UN agency denounces ‘homophobic and racist stereotypes’ in monkeypox reporting

UNAIDS released a statement on Sunday condemning reporting on monkeypox that includes “portrayals of LGBTI and African people” that the agency said “reinforce homophobic and racist stereotypes and exacerbate stigma.”

“Lessons from the AIDS response show that stigma and blame directed at certain groups of people can rapidly undermine outbreak response,” the group’s statement said.

The U.N. agency added that a “significant portion” of cases reported thus far were “identified among gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men, with some cases identified through sexual health clinics.”

It urged “media, governments, and communities to respond with a rights-based, evidence-based approach that avoids stigma.”

“Stigma and blame undermine trust and capacity to respond effectively during outbreaks like this one,” UNAIDS Deputy Executive Director Matthew Kavanagh said in the agency’s Sunday statement. 

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

Monkeypox is a type of orthopoxvirus and is related to smallpox but is usually less severe. It is typically detected in Africa, but recently, cases have been detected in the U.S. and Europe.

People infected with monkeypox typically present symptoms seven to 14 days after exposure, which can include fever, headache, muscle ache, backache, chills, exhaustion and swollen lymph nodes.

With recent cases detected in the United States and Europe, President Biden has said “everybody” should be concerned about the outbreak.

“They haven’t told me the level of exposure yet, but it is something that everybody should be concerned about,” the president said on Sunday. “We’re working on it hard to figure out what we do and what vaccine, if any, may be available for it.”

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