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Monkeypox not a "gay disease"; SASOD calls for better sensitisation

SASOD offering to partner with the Government to increase awareness on monkey pox and how is spreads, in effort to fight perception that it is a “gay disease”.

Managing Director at the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) Joel Simpson notes that when stigma becomes attached to a disease, it undermines all efforts to reduce the spread.

“In relation to monkeypox, it’s unfortunate that we’re seeing what we saw with HIV that stigma relating to men who have sex with men is being attached to the disease when transmission is not only through sexual contact.”

Human monkeypox was first identified in humans in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in a 9-month-old boy in a region where smallpox had been eliminated in 1968.

In 2003, the first monkeypox outbreak outside of Africa was in the United States of America and was linked to contact with infected pet prairie dogs.

The disease only recently became prevalent among men who have sex with men, according to the World Health Organisation. While this is an at risk group, these men are no more susceptible to the virus than anyone else.

Health Minister Dr. Frank Anthony re-affirmed this during a recent Covid update. “Monkeypox is spread by close contact. So if people are going to have unprotected sex with somebody who is infected with monkeypox, obviously you’re going to get monkey pox. It has nothing to do with your sexual orientation.”

Simpson noted as well, “It’s really through skin to skin, people using the same towels, bed linen, bath towels, … all across the world we keep seeing parent to child transmission also. If we continue to stigmatise the disease it will be difficult to prevent it.”

Simpson spoke to MTV News Update, voicing concerns of stigma preventing infected persons from seeking treatment, leading to a faster spread of the virus among at risk groups. The potential for increased violence against LGBTQ+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer) community is also a cause for concern.

He states that this will also lead to an increased spread of the virus among straight cisgendered persons who may believe they are not at risk since they are not part of the LGBTQ+ community.

“So it’s a worrying trend and I would want to call on the Ministry of Health especially to invest in education at this stage. Education about monkeypox is critical. We’re obviously willing to be a partner in these efforts but we can’t do it alone.”

Guyana has to date recorded two cases. There are 57,527 confirmed cases globally as of Monday with 5726 in neighbouring country Brazil.

Persons in Guyana who think they may be experiencing symptoms can call the Monkeypox Hotline at 0449 or visit their local healthcare facility.

Symptoms to watch out for include fever, chills, swollen lymph nodes, exhaustion, muscle aches and backache, headaches and respiratory symptoms which may be experienced either before or after the rash appears, according to the CDC.

Recommended precautions include avoiding close, skin-to-skin contact or physical intimacy with people who have a rash resembling Monkeypox patients, avoiding contact with objects and materials that a person with monkeypox has used and frequent hand washing.

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