However, experts say insisting on circulating warnings hurts communication with the most vulnerable, including black and Latino men, and oversimplifies the lessons of the AIDS crisis, highlighting the importance of fighting stigma. And the Pressure to take care of those who need it.
“We don’t want to add stigma to a sensitive situation, but then our messaging becomes so broad that no one knows we’re talking to — and that becomes a real problem,” Robert Volelove, a professor of clinical social medical sciences at Columbia University Medical Center, told CNN.
What early data shows
Part of the problem with talking about monkeypox obliquely is that we end up overemphasizing who Can Get the virus and reduce Do Get it, according to Melanie Thompson, a physician and HIV researcher in Atlanta.
Thompson emphasized the importance of clarity and communication that shows exactly where the virus is.
“The purpose of the data is not just to process the numbers – but to ensure that the people most affected by monkeypox or any other disease entity get the services that are needed,” she said.
“The message that anyone can get monkeypox is spreading fear in the general public,” Thompson added. “It distracts from the messages we need to reach people at risk of getting monkeypox.”
This kind of confusion is not only distracting. She marginalized in a different way.
“Evidence suggests that MSM are at greater risk than any other population group,” he said. “So when we’re talking about targeting messages and, more importantly, targeting vaccines, we need to make sure that these efforts are intentionally targeting the people who are most at risk, as opposed to people who might be thinking, ‘Well, why not get vaccinated? It’s just a good idea.'”
It is worth emphasizing, experts say, that while black men seem to bear the majority of monkeypox cases, the reason is not because they are black.
“When we use race as a way to identify an important trait of a sick person, some people think that sweat is biologically active — there must be something in the brown skin that makes monkeypox more likely,” Volelov said. “But that’s not the case. What we’re looking at is the dynamic of who hangs out with who and where they socialize.”
Thompson also added a note of caution in the conversation.
“There isn’t any kind of monkey pox ethnicity,” she said. “It has to do with structural racism and the nature of societies and cultural practices.”
She said Georgia, for example, remains very segregated on the basis of race and gender.
“This means that black people are more likely to have black sexual partners as well,” Thompson explained. “And because they make up a smaller proportion of the population, there is a greater chance of contracting the virus.”
If there is a positive side, it is that it should be easier to contain and eradicate monkeypox because we have a more realistic sense of where the bulk of the infection is.
“AIDS activism wasn’t just saying the right thing”
However, this approach strips the period of some complexity.
“The AIDS activism wasn’t just saying the right thing,” he explained. “It was about providing care to the people who need it.”
This does not diminish the value of cautious and empathetic messages.
Thomson believed that there was a high degree of stigma associated with monkeypox. She said doctors are hearing from some patients that they are ashamed of contracting the virus.
Complicating matters further, she added, is the fact that there are caregivers who don’t want to see people with monkeypox – which means those infected with the virus have fewer places to get treatment.
“Our politics often boil down to debates about discourse and messages that are disconnected from the physical reality of people’s lives,” said Rawles. “Not unlike HIV and AIDS, monkeypox has major physical consequences in your body if you get it. It is so embodied that it is deeply ironic that so much of the conversation centers on discourse, which is disIt is embodied in many ways.”
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