Monkeypox Virus: Global Inequities and Stigmas

August 29, 2022

The Monkeypox virus is a part of a larger narrative concerning global health inequities and massive disinformation. Historically, Monkeypox was rarely found in Europe and the Americas, leading the Western world to ignore its spread in other areas.

In May of 2022, news broke of a multi-continent monkeypox outbreak which changed the urgency because the those at risk had changed. News headlines contained racist and homophobic overtones, adding to the public’s confusion on how the virus spreads.

Information on the Monkeypox virus has been convoluted and misconceived. Even its name is a misnomer: Monkeys are secondary hosts of the disease, which has been observed to be primarily in rodents. While Monkeypox is endemic in western and central Africa, it’s misleading to describe the virus as African. The first Monkeypox case was found in a laboratory in Denmark in 1958, not in Africa.

The virus’ continued spread in Africa is largely due to unequal access to global vaccine stockpiles and medical resources. Although Africa has reported the most suspected deaths from Monkeypox, the continent has no vaccine supplies apart from their stock for research study in Congo. Unless these global health inequities are addressed, national health security will continue to be distorted, regardless of economic and/or political power.

Moreover, on Monday, August 22, The World Health Organization reported that 98.2 percent of Monkeypox patients are males and 95.2 percent are from the MSM group. Experts from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) are drawing parallels to the HIV/AIDS epidemic, which disproportionately affected the LGBTQ+ community at its height in the 80s and early 90s. These statistics allow the media to stigmatize the virus further and lead people to believe it may not affect them.

The global Monkeypox response has been replete with problems, including vaccine inequities, testing bottlenecks, misinformation and disinformation, underreporting, and the CDC-WHO feud about airborne transmission.

While we drag our feet and feud over its mode of spread and how to contain it, experts are concerned that Monkeypox will continue to spread and mutate to make it more contagious and change its mode of transmission. This infectious disease can affect any gender and every race.

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