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Advocates say monkeypox is creating stigma against LGBTQ community

WCIV Charleston logo WCIV Charleston 4 days ago Tara Jabour
© Provided by WCIV Charleston

The monkeypox disease is heavily impacting the LGBTQ community. According to the CDC, a majority of the cases reported at the end of July were found in gay and bisexual men.

But why is that community seeing the most cases?

Dr. Toby Fugate, the medical director at Ryan White Wellness Center in West Ashley, said there is really no reason why that community is being impacted first.

Caption: WCIV

"It just so happens it made it into that community first," said Dr. Fugate.

Since most of the cases are gay and bisexual men, we asked Dr. Fugate if he feels like it is creating a stigma.

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"It probably is creating a stigma. It's very easy to create stigma in a population. The reason I think we shouldn’t go down that road is because there have been 6,000-some odd cases in the country and the majority is gay and bisexual men, but it's clear there are several cases that were not," said Dr. Fugate.

Ivy Hill works for the Campaign for Southern Equality, an LGBTQ rights group. Hill worries about the stigma monkeypox will create on the LGBTQ community.

"A lot of the messaging has been very stigmatizing. Particularly for men who have sex with men, and even trans folks. It's really not ideal the way things have been talked about," said Hill.

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Hill said the stigma is comparable to the beginning of the AIDs epidemic.

"I’ve heard from some folks who have been diagnosed with monkeypox that they feel stigmatized and almost dirty for that connotation that maybe folks have felt who were positive for HIV," said Hill. 

Richard Reams from Palmetto Community Cares agrees. He said the stigma is concerning.

"It almost re-ignites the trauma of the early HIV/AIDS epidemic where everyone referred to it as a gay disease. People who lived through that are saying, 'hey, this is happening again,' but it's not one group," said Reams.

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He hopes the messaging changes around monkeypox.

"The more we identify something by the demographic it affects, the more it invites discrimination towards them," said Ream.

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