LGBTQ+ leaders, CDPHE warn against monkeypox stigmatization

DENVER (KDVR)- With monkeypox officially arriving in the state, many are curious about who can contract the illness. The short answer: anyone.

Nonetheless, doctors have seen cases linked to one group in particular that hopes to avoid the ridicule it’s faced in relation to sickness in the past.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, many of the people affected by the current outbreak identify as gay or bisexual men. Regardless, this illness is not sexual and anyone can get it.

“Anyone can contract this virus [through] close contact with these lesions,” CU School of Medicine’s Professor of Infectious Diseases Dr. David Beckham explained.

Monkeypox can transmit to anyone that comes in contact with a person or animal who has it.

“The transmission most commonly for this virus is by close contact with the actual skin lesions or a scratch or bite from a mammal that’s carrying it. But typically, it’s close contact with actual skin lesions,” Beckham said.

Beckham said it can also be spread through close contact with respiratory droplets but that’s not nearly as common. He said it’s been a while since Colorado has seen an active case, that is, until now.

“The last big outbreak of monkeypox in the U.S. at least was in 2003. There were about 47 cases associated with the import of some small mammals for pets,” Beckham said.

While the virus normally circulates around West Africa, this time, it has been detected in at least 19 countries in Europe and North America. Another new caveat for this outbreak, the CDC said many of the new cases reported have been from men who identify as gay or bisexual.

“There has been a number of cases associated within that community. Most likely again, through the close contact with lesions in the groin area during sexual contact. But I think it’s important to note [that] this is not a sexually transmitted disease,” Beckham said.

With other illnesses that anyone can get, like HIV and AIDs, already stigmatizing the gay community in the past, LGBTQ+ leaders are calling on us all to spread good information so that type of stigma is avoided when it comes to monkeypox.

Statement out of One Colorado

“This virus – just like any other – does not discriminate. Any leaders, media, or health officials who insinuate correlation with causation amongst the LGBTQ+ community, or a particular part of our community, are creating a further stigmatizing environment in which the virus can more readily spread. We encourage all LGBTQ+ Coloradans to stay informed and speak directly to their primary healthcare providers if concerned.”

– Nadine Bridges, One Colorado Executive Director

CDPHE also weighed in, saying accurate information around this topic is one they care deeply about while reiterating that nothing about the virus is unique to men who have sex with other men.

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