NJ alderman concerned about impact of monkeypox on gay community

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MONTCLAIR, NJ — Peter Yacobellis is concerned about monkeypox, both as a gay man and as an elected official. But it’s not just the potential health effects of the disease that the Montclair councilman is concerned about — it’s society’s response.

Yacobellis, a longtime advocate for LGBTQ rights in Essex County, recently shared some of his concerns about monkeypox, including its impact on the gay community. Read more: Some Monkeypox vaccines available for Montclair, Verona, Cedar Grove

“As a gay man, seeing this disease disproportionately affect my community, I fear the government response has been inadequate and state and federal authorities must step it up,” Yacobellis wrote in an email. tuesday.

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“When it comes to vaccination, we know the federal government is working to increase supply,” he told Patch. “But we know from experience with COVID-19 that we cannot rely on vaccination as a prevention tool in these early days. So that begs the question – given that we don’t have enough vaccines right now – why aren’t we looking for contracts more aggressively or ordering people to self-quarantine if they show symptoms or suspect they’ve been exposed?”

Yacobellis’ concern is shared by GLAAD – one of the world’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer rights organizations – which recently said that news of the availability of additional doses of monkeypox vaccine is “welcome and urgently needed”.

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“As we have seen with HIV, COVID-19 and now [monkeypox]discrimination, misinformation, racism and systemic health system failures continue to test the health of LGBTQ Americans as well as public health and safety – especially for LGBTQ people of color,” DaShawn said. Usher, director of GLADD.

“All people are susceptible to [monkeypox]but it emerged early in LGBTQ communities, which brought additional stigma for us,” Usher said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), monkeypox – which was discovered in 1958 – has symptoms similar to smallpox, but milder. The disease is rarely fatal.

CDC says monkey pox can spread from person to person through:

  • direct contact with infectious rashes, scabs, or body fluids
  • respiratory secretions during prolonged face-to-face contact or during intimate physical contact, such as kissing, hugging, or having sex
  • touching items (such as clothing or bedding) that have already touched the infectious rash or bodily fluids
  • pregnant women can transmit the virus to their fetus through the placenta

There have been 1,972 confirmed cases of the virus in the United States, according to the CDC. According to New Jersey health officials, the state recorded 41 cases of monkeypox on Monday. Read more: NJ monkeypox cases double in 5 days

No one has died of the disease in the United States, The New York Times reported Monday.

While public health experts say the risk of monkeypox is not limited to gay or bisexual mensome of the cases reported so far have involved men who have sex with men.

A New Jersey Department of Health spokesperson issued the following statement to Patch on Wednesday:

“Although many people in our state who have been affected by monkeypox are men who have had close social or intimate contact with other men, we would like to remind residents that monkeypox can be spread from anyone to anyone else. Part of our responsibility is to educate people about their potential risks and what they can do to protect themselves. As we work to raise awareness for those currently at higher risk, the administration would like to clarify that this is a public health issue that can affect anyone, regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation There is no shame in testing, diagnosing or treating monkeypox, and we encourage everyone to learn more about the virus so they can take preventive measures or contact their healthcare provider if needed to protect themselves and others.”

Other public health experts have issued similar messages.

“Stigmatizing people because of a disease is never acceptable,” the World Health Organization recently said, adding that “anyone can catch or transmit monkeypox, regardless of sexuality.” .

But GLADD noted that there is more to this sighting than meets the eye. According to an update recently fact sheet of the group :

“AC DC statement published on May 18 states that “anyone can spread monkeypox, regardless of sexual orientation”, while noting that current tracking suggests that “gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men represent a high number of cases”. However, independent public health researchers Noted only limited test capacity until now, it has been difficult to accurately measure cases and spread.”

The association adds:

“A person’s sexual orientation or gender identity does not put them at higher risk of infection; close contact with an infected person puts them at higher risk of infection. CDC’s Dr Demetre Daskalakis Noted, [monkeypox] transmission is similar to the MRSA outbreak in 2008, with lessons we can apply to public health messaging and media coverage. With MRSA, athletes could be particularly at risk because of close physical contact and shared facilities, not because they are athletes. Dr. Daskalakis reiterated that transmission of MPV is more specifically related to behavior than a person’s identity.”

The experts are now trying to find a delicate balance between warning people who may be at higher risk and stigmatizing a community that has been unfairly scapegoated for health issues in the past, The New York Times reported.

It’s a fine line to walk, Yacobellis told Patch.

“The legacy of HIV/AIDS has rightly shaken the faith of gay men in our government’s ability to fight a disease that disproportionately affected us then – as it does now,” said said Yacobellis. “I am very concerned about the juxtaposition of a health crisis affecting our community at the same time attacks on the LGBTQ+ community are on the rise.”

“Information about risk aversion and prevention is not reaching at-risk populations in New Jersey, including gay men,” he said. “I don’t understand, after what we’ve just been through with COVID-19, how we’re not ahead of this from a communications perspective, at least.”

“As a local elected official in a jurisdiction with a local health board and as the leader of an LGBTQ+ organization, I don’t think I should be getting up-to-date disease information from my friends on Instagram,” added Yacobellis.

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