Rise in monkeypox cases alarms LGBTQ activists

Protesters in several cities across the country are calling on the Biden administration, as well as local officials, to address the rapidly rising cases of monkeypox.

Protesters, including many LGBTQ activists, say authorities have yet to provide needed information to vulnerable populations as issues continue to plague the rollout of the vaccine.

A demonstration is planned for Thursday by several organizations in New York, the epicenter of the American epidemic.

Nearly 60% of people diagnosed with monkeypox in New York City have identified as members of the LGBTQ community, according to the New York City Department of Health.

The city has recorded more than 600 cases so far, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As of July 20, there were more than 2,100 confirmed cases in the United States, with the number rapidly increasing, according to the CDC.

Federal and state agencies have scrambled to provide enough monkeypox vaccines and treatments as demand surges by the tens of thousands.

Groups including HIV/AIDS awareness and advocacy organizations Housing Works and ACT UP New York said they have a list of demands for state and federal governments.

PHOTO: California State Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon speaks during a press conference at the Out Here Sexual Health Center in the Baldwin Hills section of Los Angeles, July 20, 2022.

California State Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon speaks during a press conference at the Out Here Sexual Health Center in the Baldwin Hills section of Los Angeles on July 20, 2022.

Richard Vogel/AP

“There’s a shame in that,” said Mordechai Levovitz, organizer of Thursday’s protest and clinical director of LGBTQ Jewish youth group JQY. “There’s a taboo. It’s something that, for people who had [rashes and lesions] on their faces, something they can’t hide.”

At the state level, the group is calling for an expansion of the availability of vaccine appointments; meaningful community outreach; a stock of vaccines; a safety net fund for people who test positive and need to take time off work; as well as the provision of hotel rooms for quarantine.

At the federal level, protesters demand large-scale information campaigns about CDC monkeypox testing, and free and accessible testing for the uninsured and underinsured, as well as for the government to provide a breakdown demographics of infected populations.

“The federal government must invest in communicating about testing, treatment, and the availability of monkeypox vaccines now,” according to a statement from Act Up New York.

He continued, “We need meaningful outreach to all communities, including vulnerable populations, streamlined communication efforts, implementation of mass testing, expedited FDA approval of TPOXX (MPX treatment) and a public plan for the US government to take action on the Bavarian Nordic stockpile (15.2 million vaccines).”

At a press conference on Wednesday, New York Department of Health officials said they were working with advocates and activists on outreach efforts.

“We have developed clinical guidance, expanded testing capacity – first from our public health labs, and now to commercial labs – in partnership with the federal government, as the governor said, and revitalized our network of local health departments,” said State Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett.

She continued, “We do all of this with genuine attention to the importance of dignity and respect, without stigma, and with equity always at the center of our work.”

The CDC did not immediately respond to ABC News’ requests for comment.

Protests have also taken place in San Francisco where cases are rising. The San Francisco Department of Public Health reported 55 cases of monkeypox on July 19 alone, bringing the total number of cases in the city to 141.

PHOTO: People line up to receive the Monkeypox vaccine before the opening of a new mass vaccination site at the Bushwick Education Campus in Brooklyn on July 17, 2022.

People line up to receive the Monkeypox vaccine before the opening of a new mass vaccination site at the Bushwick Education Campus in Brooklyn on July 17, 2022.

Betancur/AFP via Getty Images

LGBTQ groups are on high alert over the rapid spread of cases, saying messages about the circumstances of the infection have not been properly communicated to at-risk communities.

Although demographics are not yet available for cases across the United States, nearly 60% of those infected in New York have self-identified as members of the LGBTQIA+ community, although demographics on sexual orientation are not available. were not available for 39.6% of cases. Two people – 0.6% of cases – reported identifying as heterosexual.

At least 34% of people infected in Europe have identified as gay or bisexual, according to the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control.

However, the sexual orientation of 65% of those infected is unknown or missing from the data, the European agency said.

Officials have stressed that gay and bisexual men, in particular, are at risk here in the United States, although they stress that anyone can contract the disease.

The CDC says monkeypox can be spread through, among other things, direct contact with an infectious rash, scabies, or bodily fluids or via respiratory secretions during prolonged face-to-face contact or physical contact. respondent.

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