WASHINGTON - The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation's largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ+) civil rights organization, has been closely monitoring the monkeypox (MPV) outbreak in the United States, especially as the virus spreads primarily among men who have sex with men (MSM). In an effort to get accurate and timely information to the LGBTQ+ community, HRC launched a resource page that lays out what the virus is, how it spreads, symptoms to watch for and current vaccine information, among other crucial information based on CDC and HHS guidance.
Jay Brown, HRC Senior Vice President of Programs, Research and Training issued the following statement:
"Just like many members of our community, we're concerned about the spread of MPV. We recognize that the virus has been able to easily spread through close, skin-to-skin contact within our community. Over the past several weeks, we've seen the LGBTQ+ community doing what we're best at: caring for each other, raising awareness and acting on sound public health guidance.
Public health and other government officials must act quickly to ramp up testing capacity and vaccine distribution. They also need to be intentional with vaccine distribution and testing, prioritizing how to reach Black and Brown gay and bi+ men and transgender women, especially those individuals living with HIV. We've seen historical and systemic discrimination when it comes to delivering effective prevention and treatment to these members of our community. As we have learned many times, a public health response that does not center equitable care and treatment is a failed response.
To be clear: there is no such thing as a 'gay disease.' It's imperative that public officials, care providers and the media continue to center the science and evidence in their reporting and guidance. Stigma puts everyone at unnecessary risk, elevates baseless fears and ultimately prevents people from seeking the information and care they may need. It's up to all of us to call out and correct misinformation."
MPV is a rare but potentially serious, viral illness that typically involves flu-like symptoms, accompanied by a rash, which may look like pimples or blisters. While the current outbreak in the U.S. has high rates of known cases among men who have sex with men (MSM), this virus can be transmitted to anyone, anywhere through close, personal, often skin-to-skin contact. Health officials and advocates are urging people to "be cautious." According to the CDC, as of July 7, there were 700 confirmed cases of MPV across the country, though this number is likely an undercount due to severely limited testing capacity.
Health officials note that high rates amongst MSM could be due to gay men being more proactive toward their sexual health (seeking testing, treatment, knowledge sharing) compared to other communities. It's critically important that we provide a clear, scientific, evidence-based response to prevent the dissemination of misinformation, which might stigmatize LGBTQ+ people. Causing unnecessary fear will potentially endanger lives and lead to destructive policies. Every person, no matter your sexuality or gender identity, should take proper precautions and listen to guidance from health officials in order to stay safe.
The Human Rights Campaign is America's largest civil rights organization working to achieve equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people. HRC envisions a world where LGBTQ+ people are embraced as full members of society at home, at work and in every community.
The page is at www.hrc.org/resources/monkeypox-and-what-you-need-to-know.