They, along with leaders of several national LGBTQ organizations, are frustrated and angry with the federal government for its “lack of urgency” regarding the ongoing outbreak.
They say they feel abandoned by the government and want monkeypox declared a public health emergency now.
“We are, once again, at a moment where a lack of urgency and an inadequate response has left our community filled with fear, unanswered questions and valid anger. A moment where we have been abandoned by inaction,” Tyler TerMeer, CEO of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, said Tuesday.
“This is unacceptable and completely preventable,” TerMeer said. “Our community of resilient people has had to rise up once again to support each other, to educate each other and to fight for access to the resources they need and deserve.”
Monkeypox can infect anyone, but most cases in the US outbreak have been among men who have sex with men, including gay and bisexual men, and people who identify as transgender.
Since June, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said it has made a concerted effort to do extensive education and outreach to the LGBTQ community.
The agency says it has worked with the umbrella organization for local Pride committees to raise awareness. He released educational videos, engaged with groups working on health disparities and industries whose workers could be exposed to monkeypox, and created awareness campaigns on Instagram and popular gay dating apps like Scruff, Adam4Adam and Grindr. . The agency is also planning to participate in hearings with LGBTQ community groups.
But these efforts have not shortened lines for vaccines or eliminated the extensive paperwork needed to access treatments.
The federal government is monitoring the monkeypox response across the country and will use it to consider whether to declare it a public health emergency, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services secretary said last week. , Xavier Becerra.
“We have made vaccines, tests and treatments far beyond the numbers currently needed available to all jurisdictions that manage their public health systems,” he said.
“We will weigh any decision to declare a public health emergency based on the responses we’re seeing across the country. Ultimately, we have to move forward and be able to end this outbreak.”
Torrian Baskerville, director of HIV and health equity at the Human Rights Campaign, an organization that advocates for LGBTQ+ rights, said community members should not have to create their own online tracking systems to find out when and where vaccines are available. and treatments, because of lack of information from local government bodies.
“Our system is not designed to respond to these emergencies effectively, especially when it affects vulnerable and often marginalized populations,” Baskerville said.
A man who had clear signs of monkeypox told Baskerville that he had been turned away from his local health department, denied testing and treatment because he no longer had appointments, even though he arrived during clinic hours.
Another man told Baskerville that he is facing deportation. Unable to work, isolated with monkeypox symptoms for more than 25 days, he said he has been denied medical leave three times and must spend at least five more days in isolation because he still has symptoms.
Another told him they had to lie about how many sexual partners they had recently had because some state and local health departments had to ration vaccines, giving them only to people who had three or more sexual partners in two weeks. last.
“The frustrations and concerns of gay and bisexual men and transgender men and women who are, at the moment, most affected by [monkeypox] are very real and clear,” Bakersville said.
Some public health experts have said the US missed its chance to control the monkeypox virus because it was too slow to act.
As of Monday evening, the US had recorded at least 5,811 confirmed or probable cases of monkeypox, a number experts say is still a significant undercount.
With limited supplies and growing awareness of the virus and its sometimes painful effects, vaccination appointments are going fast.
David C. Harvey, executive director of the National Coalition of STD Directors, said Tuesday that the organization invited public health clinic directors from around the country to a meeting with the Biden administration on Monday, where they talked about how this part of the the monkeypox outbreak. known. Management of monkeypox is similar to the earlier days of HIV and Covid-19, he said.
“Program after program talked about the fear and stigma that gay men are experiencing in relation to [monkeypox]vaccine shortages, burned-out staff, lack of funding to cover what has been an unforeseen public health emergency,” he said.
He labeled the outbreak “out of control” and added that it is something many public health leaders warned would happen unless the federal government acted urgently.
Congress also needs to act quickly to pass the $21 billion Pandemic Preparedness Act, he said, because local health officials need more money and the country needs to reduce and eliminate barriers to testing, care, vaccines and grants.
Harvey was particularly critical of Becerra, who said at a press conference last week that “everyone needs to pick up the paddle and step up. Everyone needs to do their part” and that local jurisdictions need to “work with” HHS in reporting data on how they are using vaccines.
Becerra said communities must work to prevent the spread of monkeypox and distribute vaccines. Without this work, more vaccines will be needed.
“But if everyone does their job,” he said, “can we not only stay ahead of the virus, but end this outbreak? Absolutely.”
Harvey thinks local health leaders have gone above and beyond to do what they can with the resources they have.
“States and localities have really been left to respond to many aspects of this outbreak on their own. This is contrary to comments made by Secretary Becerra last week, when he appeared to blame states and cities for not responding adequately. he said. “Mr. Secretary, we are failing the Americans today. And this is a public health failure that follows Covid and the various earlier days of HIV in this country. It’s time for us to turn this situation around.”