Dr. Anthony Fauci says that the government’s response against monkeypox must include combatting anti-gay stigmas that could be associated with the disease.
Speaking with NPR’s “All Things Considered” on Tuesday, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), highlighted the importance of treating the virus as one that can affect anybody, and not only a certain part of the population.
There are currently 19,188 confirmed cases of monkeypox in the current outbreak, which the World Health Organization has recently classified as a public health emergency. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 3,591 of them are in the United States.
Even though right now the vast majority of cases are being reported among gay and bisexual men, it’s important to focus on fighting the virus, and not stigmatizing those who are infected, Fauci said.
“You reach out to the community. You make it very easy for them to have access to testing, to treatment and to vaccine as opposed to making it a situation where people are afraid to come forward for those types of things,” he added.
Fauci, a pioneer in the fight against HIV/AIDS, said that the federal government must do everything it can to underscore who the real “enemy” is.
“The enemy is the virus, not anybody who’s being afflicted with the virus,” he said.
According to the World Health Organization, the monkeypox virus is transmitted “from one person to another by close contact with lesions, body fluids, respiratory droplets and contaminated materials such as bedding.”
“We need to get our arms around understanding just the extent of the spread, how it’s spread, what population,” Fauci said.
“Right now it’s focused — because it’s about 99% among men who have sex with men. We’ve got to understand the modality of transmission, the manifestations, also the risk for people like children and pregnant women,” he added. “So we’ve got to reach out to the community, particularly men who have sex with men, get rid of anything that even smacks a little bit of stigma, and make sure we outreach to them.”
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