Monkeypox: LGBTQ2S+ community concerned about stigma

A theory that the recent monkeypox outbreak could be linked to sexual activity has put the gay community in an unfortunate position, having struggled with previous and ongoing stigma around HIV and AIDS, says an LGBTQ2S+ center director .

David Hawkins, Executive Director of the West Island LGBTQ2+ Center in Beaconsfield, Que., told CTV News Channel on Saturday that the situation was frustrating and that he feared the conversation about monkeypox would indirectly affect and stigmatize the LGBTQ2S+ community – lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender , queer, two-spirit and more – again.

“We have very strong community organizations that are still working to destigmatize HIV and AIDS, and they still have a lot of work to do and they are doing it, but I think the reality is that we may also have to start having this monkeypox conversation,” Hawkins said.

A number of Western countries, including Canada, have reported cases of monkeypox.

Discovered in 1958, monkeypox is a rare disease caused by a virus belonging to the same family as that responsible for smallpox. The disease was first discovered in colonies of monkeys used for research and has been reported mainly from central and western African countries.

Monkeypox typically causes fever, chills, rashes, and lesions on the face or genitals, and can be spread through close contact via respiratory droplets or bodily fluids with an infected person or their contaminated equipment, such as clothes or sheets. However, infections usually occur through contact with infected animals, such as wild rodents and primates.

As of Monday morning, the World Health Organization (WHO) recorded more than 90 cases in a dozen countries, but health officials stressed that monkeypox is not COVID-19.

A report by the Associated Press on Monday quoted a top WHO adviser as saying the unprecedented outbreak, while “random” and unlikely to trigger widespread transmission, can be explained by risky sexual behavior at two recent raves in Spain and Belgium.

UK officials say a “notable proportion” of cases in Britain and Europe involve young men with no travel history to Africa who are gay, bisexual or have sex with men. Authorities in Portugal and Spain said their cases involved men who primarily had sex with other men and whose infections were detected when they sought help for lesions at sexual health clinics.

Monkeypox has not previously caused widespread epidemics beyond Africa, where it is endemic in animals.

Most people recover within weeks without requiring hospitalization, and smallpox vaccines are effective in preventing monkeypox. Health officials say no deaths have been reported among the current cases.

On Friday, Quebec’s health ministry said five cases had been confirmed in the province and the Public Health Agency of Canada was investigating about 20 more cases.

Health officials in Toronto said Saturday they are also investigating the first suspected case of monkeypox in the city.

Speaking to CTV’s Power Play on Friday, infectious disease specialist Dr. Isaac Bogoch said that given monkeypox’s long incubation period, he expects it to be “growling for a while. time”, potentially for weeks.

“So good hand hygiene, and if people are near a known case, a mask would help,” he said.

With files from Editor Solarina Ho, The Canadian Press and The Associated Press

About Walter J. Leslie

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