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Don’t bring your homophobia to the monkeypox outbreak

By Christine Siamanta Kinori

IMAGE CREDITE: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

As the world continues to grapple with living in the post-COVID-19 era, a new viral disease is rousing new health concerns for many. Since mid-May when the first case was confirmed, the new virus has been making headlines in different countries. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), monkeypox remains a serious health issue.

The new outbreak of the monkeypox virus can spread to anyone with the primary mode of transmission being skin-to-skin contact. However, the current outbreak is overwhelmingly affecting sexually active gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with other men. This has led to misconceptions that the virus is an STI spreading in the gay community and that only the gay community is dangerous.

Such misconceptions take us back to the early HIV/AIDS crisis where gay men were stigmatized as the disease was considered “a gay plague.” It seems like history is repeating itself, as the LGBTQ+ continues to be stigmatized because an overwhelming majority of monkeypox patients in the United States identify as LGBTQ and are male.

It is a fact that the monkeypox virus seems to disproportionately affect the LGBTQ+ community and it is important to warn and educate the community, but it is also true that it can be spread between anyone through close, physical contact. The issue arises in how that information is misconstrued leading to escalated homophobia and stigmatization of the group.

As stated, the disease spreads through close skin-to-skin contact such as hugging, kissing, and other forms of close face-to-face contact. This has led to many assuming that monkeypox is a sexually transmitted infection. The mislabelling of the virus as an STI and the fact the most affected are gay men have led to homophobic people blaming and shaming gay men.

This widespread public confusion about the precise nature and spread of the disease has opened the gay community to be shamed for having sex. In an era where sex positivity defines modern gay life, it is unfair to threaten all the progress that was made toward freeing gay men to reattaching a social stigma around gay sexuality. It is understandably, and even necessary, for medical experts to ask gay men to reduce sexual partners and reconsider sex with new partners. It is however not okay to attack and shame gay men for having sex. There is nothing inherently wrong with gay sex and no one has the right to curtail their sexual freedom.

At a time when there has been an alarming surge of homophobia, including anti-gay legislation at the state level, a renewed ostracization of the LGBTQ+ community is only adding to its vulnerability. This is why it is disheartening to see the government’s slow response to the outbreak and dispelling misinformation on the disease.

Why is the government taking so long to meet the demand for vaccines? Is it because they consider it an LGBTQ+ concern? It has been three months and vaccines are still lacking even after more than 4900 cases. New York has already declared a state of emergency due to the outbreak. The US health department is handling this outbreak almost the same way they handled the 1980s AIDS crisis. The government should have “secured the vaccines sooner, and made testing more widely available.”

I am not saying that life-saving information should not be shared. The community needs to be alerted to the measures it can take to protect itself. I am simply calling out those who are taking this as a chance to weaponize the disease. They are using it as an excuse to direct attacks on the community. Monkeypox can affect anyone regardless of their sexual orientation, there is no need to bring homophobia into this outbreak. It is a shame we are yet to learn even after the HIV/AIDS epidemic and the ongoing pandemic.

About the Author:

Christine Siamanta Kinori grew up in a little village in Kenya known as Loitoktok near the border of Kenya and Tanzania. All she wanted to do when she grew up was to explore the world. Her curiosity led her to join Nairobi University to pursue a degree in Journalism and Mass Communications. She later got a job with an amazing travel magazine Nomad Africa which gave her the opportunity to explore Africa. She also writes for numerous travel websites about Africa and tries to create a new narrative in the media about our aesthetic continent.

Christine claims to have somewhat unhealthy addiction to TV and reading, as it is a fun way to keep herself occupied during the long journeys for her travel writing. She is also a believer of letting people be their beautiful selves. To her, love is love and it is the greatest gift we have as humans.

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