‘Turns out it started in the gay community’ – Cheshire LGBTQ group speaks out on monkeypox stigma

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Cheshire-based LGBTQ charity Body Positive has spoken out about ‘harmful’ stigma aimed at the gay community because of the spread of monkeypox. An outbreak of the disease was seen in the UK this month, with now more than 100 cases in the country since May 7.

Gay or bisexual men and men who have sex with men are particularly urged to be aware of the symptoms, as the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) says “the majority of cases identified to date” are among this group. However, Crewe’s LGBTQ charity says the post fuels stigma against the gay community and the group fears it could lead to increased incidents of homophobia.

Rachel Walker, community development worker at Body Positive Cheshire & North Wales, said: “As is often the case, stigma and misinformation about diseases often causes more hardship for people who need treatment or who try to stay safe, as unfounded and inaccurate ideas start to appear. spread.

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“Monkeypox has recently made headlines with an unusual outbreak in the UK that has healthcare professionals worried. Much of the reporting has sown confusion about how people can catch the disease and who is susceptible to Unfortunately, in the case of monkeypox, this can lead to homophobia or abuse that is harmful to the LGBTQ+ community and can impact public health in general.

“It is caused by the monkey pox virus. A member of the same family of viruses as smallpox, although it is much less serious and experts say the chances of infection are low.

“The current outbreak started in one community – gays, bisexuals and men who have sex with men – but could be spread by anyone in close contact with another infected person.

“Transmission happens to have started within the gay community, which is already stigmatized due to outdated ideas about HIV. It is important that we tackle these misleading messages so that everyone is informed and protected.

Early symptoms include high temperature, headache, muscle aches, back pain, swollen glands, chills and exhaustion, with a rash usually appearing up to five days after the first symptoms. It can be treated with the smallpox vaccine along with antiviral drugs.

On the NHS website, Dr Susan Hopkins, Chief Medical Adviser, UKHSA, said: ‘We continue to detect new cases of monkeypox rapidly through our extensive surveillance network and NHS services. If anyone suspects that they might have rashes or sores on any part of their body, especially if they have recently had a new sexual partner, they should limit their contact with others and contact the NHS 111.”

UKHSA teams have been tracing contacts of people with a confirmed case and are advising those most at risk to self-isolate for up to 21 days.

A smallpox vaccine is offered to close contacts to reduce their risk of symptoms and serious illness.

The health body also advises those infected to avoid contact with their pets for 21 days, especially rodents such as gerbils and hamsters which are susceptible to the disease.

UKHSA guidelines recommend that pet rodents be removed from the household of a patient with monkeypox during this time and tested for the virus, due to concerns about animal-to-animal or rodent-to-human transmission.

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