Human Rights Campaign Calls for Equitable Monkeypox (MPV) Response Amidst Disturbing Reports of Vaccine Disparities

by Jared Todd

WASHINGTON - The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ+) civil rights organization, has been closely monitoring the monkeypox (MPV) outbreak in the United States and tracking equity in overall public health response. Concerning reports have been released this week with demographic data that shows in some areas, Black and Brown people within the men who have sex with men (MSM) community are most impacted by the virus, yet they are receiving a fraction of the limited vaccines in comparison with their white peers.

The racial disparities that we’ve been seeing in some areas, like North Carolina, when it comes to vaccine distribution is deeply troubling. If this is happening with vaccine distribution, it’s also very likely that BIPOC communities are experiencing the same inequity when it comes to treatment and care. This is exactly why we have been calling for an equitable public health response to MPV.

While the federal government must act quickly to ramp up vaccines coming into the country, every public health official has a responsibility to be intentional with vaccine distribution and access to testing. Government entities must do better to prioritize reaching Black and Brown gay, bi+, and transgender men, as well as transgender women and non-binary individuals, especially those individuals living with HIV. Partnering with community organizations and sexual health clinics is paramount.

We’ve seen historical and systemic discrimination when it comes to delivering effective prevention and treatment to these members of our community. As we have learned many times, a public health response that does not center equitable care and treatment is a failed response.”

Torrian L. Baskerville, HRC's director of HIV & Health Equity

A report from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services issued August 10 states the following: “The data shows 70% of cases are in Black/African American men and 19% in White men; however, only 24% of vaccines have gone to Black/AA recipients, while 67% have gone to White recipients.”

Another report was issued August 8 from the Georgia Department of Public Health, which enumerates the following demographic data:

Race (available on 466, 75% of cases):

  • Black or African American: 382 (82%)

  • White: (14%)

  • Other: 9 (2%)

  • Multiracial: 7 (2%)

  • Asian: 3 (1%)

HIV summary statistics have been provided based on the first 452 cases: 303/452 (67%) of cases are in eHARS, indicating they are living with HIV.

MPV is a rare but potentially serious and painful viral illness that typically involves flu-like symptoms, accompanied by a rash, which may look like pimples or blisters. The virus spreads primarily through close skin-to-skin contact with an individual who has MPV as well as through objects like clothes, bed sheets, sex toys and fetish gear that have been used by someone with MPV. Although anyone can be at risk of acquiring the virus through close contact, the current outbreak has high rates of known cases among men who have sex with men (MSM), which is a large and diverse group within the LGBTQ+ community. According to the CDC, as of August 11, there were 10,768 confirmed cases of MPV across the country, though this number is likely an undercount due to limited testing access and capacity.

In an effort to get accurate and timely information to the LGBTQ+ community, HRC launched a resource page that lays out what the virus is, how it spreads, symptoms to watch for and current vaccine information, among other crucial information based on CDC and HHS guidance. It’s critically important that we provide a clear, scientific, evidence-based response to prevent the dissemination of misinformation and reduce language that might stigmatize LGBTQ+ people. Causing unnecessary fear will potentially endanger lives and lead to destructive policies.

The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people. HRC envisions a world where LGBTQ+ people are embraced as full members of society at home, at work and in every community.

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