OPINION: Monkeypox misconceptions are harmful and offensive


After the declaration of Monkeypox as a global health emergency the highest alert that the World Health Organization can issue fear, misinformation and stigma have been on the rise, especially toward people of African descent and LGBTQ+ individuals.

False assumptions about the origins of monkeypox and who it affects paint a negative picture of groups who may have very little to do with the virus at all. It can also lead to harmful stereotypes and stigmas that may last longer than the health emergency itself.

As someone of South African descent, it is incredibly insulting and hurtful to hear others slam African countries for spreading “new” diseases to other parts of the world.

Not only were African scientists left to fend for themselves in controlling the virus, but they are now deemed responsible for the spread, which was likely caused by tourists visiting African countries.

A majority of the people in central and western Africa can’t afford to leave their home countries for leisure, making it unlikely that the outbreak was caused by someone of African descent. Yet Africans everywhere, regardless of region of origin and other important details, are being blamed.

Educating others about the risks and patterns of the monkeypox virus is even more difficult when public figures, such as Texas University professor Timothy Farage (a computer science professor with no history in medicine), ask for a “cure for homosexuality” under the facade of wanting to reduce the spread of monkeypox.

Monkeypox is spread through close face-to-face, skin-to-skin direct contact, similar to diseases such as conjunctivitis (pink-eye), ebola, polio, and head lice. Yet we don’t blame the LGBTQ+ communities for these diseases even though they are spread in the same manner.

While there seems to be an increase in exposure to homosexual men, according to Dr. Rosamund Lewis, this should encourage us to promote safe sex practices and educate others rather than slamming our neighbors, friends and family for their sexuality.

No one wants to become infected with monkeypox, so to suggest that homosexual men were “asking for it” is not only offensive but grossly incorrect.
Monkeypox does not see gender, sexuality, race or status. It simply jumps from one person to the next, leaving a trail of devastation and pain in its wake. An increase of cases in homosexual men means we need to protect and inform them.

While the mortality rate for monkeypox is very low, its rapid spread to new countries makes it particularly dangerous to those who have never come in contact with the virus before. Not only are we (and our immune systems) unfamiliar with the virus and its symptoms, but we have a harder time recognizing it due to a complete lack of education.

If you have a fever and/or nausea and believe you may have come in contact with someone carrying the monkeypox virus, consult a doctor immediately and let them know your concerns ahead of time so healthcare workers can take proper precautions.

Between four and seven days of exposure, fluid-filled lesions will appear on the body — a serious sign that you may be infected with monkeypox.

Monkeypox misconceptions contribute to unnecessary public fear, homophobia and racism and an increased spread in the virus, so it is important to educate yourself on the risks, trends and status of the monkeypox virus in your area.

If you won’t do it for yourself, do it for those that you have close contact with – your parents, your partner, your siblings or your children.