The Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) is reportedly warning that stigmatizing language used in covering the monkeypox virus could jeopardize public health.
According to Al-Jazeera, UNAIDS cites some portrayals of Africans and LGBTQ people that “reinforce homophobic and racist stereotypes and exacerbate stigma.”
So far, more than 100 confirmed or suspected cases of monkeypox virus have been reported in nearly 20 countries where the virus is not endemic. Most infections have been in Europe, but confirmed and suspected cases have been reported in Australia, North America and Middle East.
UNAIDS said that while “a significant proportion” of recent monkeypox cases have been identified among gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men, transmission is most likely via close physical contact with a monkeypox sufferer and could affect anyone. They also added that saying some portrayals of Africans and LGBTQ people “reinforce homophobic and racist stereotypes and exacerbate stigma.”
“Stigma and blame undermine trust and capacity to respond effectively during outbreaks like this one,” UNAIDS deputy executive director Matthew Kavanagh said, according to Al-Jazeera. “Experience shows that stigmatizing rhetoric can quickly disable evidence-based response by stoking cycles of fear, driving people away from health services, impeding efforts to identify cases, and encouraging ineffective, punitive measures.”