- Describing monkeypox as an STD is inaccurate and could create other problems, such as stigma, experts say.
- Experts suggest clear messages about how monkeypox spreads to inform, not warn.
Sexually transmitted diseases Nothing new. But has a new one appeared?
There are 6,326 cases of monkeypox in the United States, most of whom were exposed to the virus through close contact during sex, but This does not mean that monkeypox is a sexually transmitted infection.
Caused by a virus of the same family as smallpox, monkeypox is transmitted through personal contact with rashes, scabs, or body fluids, touching infected objects such as clothing as well as contact with respiratory secretions. Symptoms, which can begin to appear seven to 14 days after exposure, include fever, muscle aches, fatigue, and a rash that can appear on the body.
And while the majority of reported cases have been with men who had sex with men, anyone can get monkeypox.
This is why experts say it is a problem to call monkeypox an STD. Not only because it is inaccurate and misinformation may exacerbate the spread, but because it can perpetuate stigma against marginalized communities.
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Monkeypox is not an STD. Why don’t you call it one.
Dr. Stella Sappho, primary care physician for HIV and founder of Just Equity For Health, says it’s very important that we get the right transmission messages for monkeypox.. If it is framed as an STD when it is not, then the general public may:
- I think they are in less danger when they are not.
- She won’t know how to prevent herself from getting sick.
- You won’t know if or when you’ll get help if you start to have symptoms.
“A lot of people might think, ‘Well, I don’t have sex. I am not a gay man. So I’m good no matter what. When monkeypox is actually a contact-based disease.
What doesn’t help, Sappho adds, are public officials who aren’t “very clear” in their framing, especially regarding the history of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. In that time, millions of thousands died from the virus that seemed to target certain communities despite the lack of immunity – all exacerbated by the lack of action to help stop its spread. Despite advances in medication and awareness about HIV today, the disease still affects gay and bisexual men who are Hispanic and black.
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“When public health agencies say we see men having sex with men with monkeypox at a higher rate, people hear that as ‘Oh, this is a gay disease’ or ‘This is another sexually transmitted disease.’ It confuses people’s minds. “.
Even if public health authorities don’t describe monkeypox as an STD or “gay man’s disease,” people may make assumptions that may lead to more infections.
“A really strong effort is needed to make it clear that while this group is more affected at the moment, we expect this unfortunate virus to become more widespread in the community, and that other groups will be affected because of the way it is affected by the spread,” she says, adding these messages Important to help inform and thus reduce panic.
“We end up panicking people more when they don’t have a sense of what’s going to happen, as we’ve seen with COVID. So I think giving that information out could be very helpful.”
As the incidence of monkeypox increases, so does stigma
Sappho explains that viruses such as monkeypox are “completely neutral” and “don’t make any kind of judgment” on the infected population. Society is the opposite.
“What we’re seeing is the continued defamation of a group,” she explains. “Men who have sex with men, and some historically marginalized communities … tend to be targeted as a cause of disease spread. There is a historical belief in that.”
And just as HIV reinforced this unconscious (or conscious) bias when it was first discovered in the United States, experts worry that monkeypox will fall into the same narrative.
“[This]is why people are so strong in saying it’s not a sexually transmitted infection,” Sappho adds. “There is a natural tendency for gay men to be ascribed to some kind of wild lifestyle that leads to more disease. So the monkeypox that occurs more in this population (at this time) really reads into that stereotype.”
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Even labeling something as an STD can have a certain stigma as something “dirty,” says Benjamin J. Goldman, a mental health therapist in New York.
“We have this sharp judgment about adults agreeing to engage in consensual sexual behavior because of endogenous, systemic, and hetero-reactive homophobia,” he says. “The idea that STIs dirty or make you less than or wrong in some way is already fueling this heterogeneous parenting narrative before we even begin to address the fact that monkeypox is not an STD.”
Shame also plays a role in talking about stigma.
“There is a lot of shame, especially from outside the LGBT community, about the idea of sexual intensity[in society],” he explains. “When people are asked to change their sexual patterns and behaviors, it immediately fits with this overly traditional idea that ‘sex is wrong… If I had monogamous sex with one person as God commanded, I would not have such a disease’ which lacks Of course down to the nuances per se.”
Goldman is also concerned about the mental health impact of marginalized communities.
“There is a unique suffering happening to the LGBTQ community right now,” he says, adding that there is suffering–Trauma aspect of people who have lived through the HIV/AIDS epidemic. From Experienced judgment or loss of societyAnd the So is the fear of going out because of the idea that “their sex lives are making them dirty again.”
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As monkeypox spreads, so does stigma.
“When we start to see monkeypox in certain groups of children – and unfortunately, it’s probably more among some demographics of children – if it starts that means we have higher incidences of monkeypox among black and brown childrenAnd the This will speak (to) the unconscious bias that blacks or browns spread disease,” Sappho says.
Sappho adds that we should not allow prejudices to appear in the way we describe and inform the public about the disease.
“When we start to see them really affect certain ethnic groups more – not because they are more likely to get it by any biological means, but just because of the socio-political realities they are in… If you have plump people at home, and monkeypox is spreading, it is more likely to get it,” she says, noting the same huge effects we’ve seen across ethnic groups with COVID-19.
If the framing is not clarified, Sappho worries the narrative that gays, blacks, browns, and those who are both “dirty” or promiscuity will be reinforced.
Sappho advises that the best way forward is not to panic but to prepare ourselves informative. Any infectious disease is something we should all think about in order to protect us and our loved ones.
“Honestly, none of us is okay until we are all okay.”
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