So far, about 27,000 cases of monkeypox have been identified worldwide, and this number continues to rise.
Since the start of the global outbreak, public officials have struggled with how best to share important information with people at risk.
There are currently 71 confirmed or suspected cases of monkeypox in Michigan. Concern about the cases is growing, but so are fears of stigmatization of some communities. There is a debate about how to balance warning those at high risk without making them targets of discrimination or violence.
Although monkeypox can be sexually transmitted, it is not a sexually transmitted disease. This global outbreak is the first in which contact during sex appears to be an important driver of spread.
Monkeypox is spread through close contact or sharing contaminated items. So far, the majority of cases in this worldwide outbreak are among men who have sex with men. Experts point out that it can and has spread beyond that population.
Steven Haden is the founder of Envision: You, a Denver-based nonprofit that seeks to close gaps in behavioral health outcomes for LGBTQ+ individuals.
“When you tie a public health concern like this closely to a certain population, it deters people who are not part of that population from seeking care,” Haden said.
This situation is a prime example of why it’s important to have more representation from the LGBTQ+ community in medicine and public health — to make sure that the desire to avoid stigma doesn’t get in the way of sharing good information. And that important health messages do not inadvertently make certain populations targets of discrimination or violence.
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