The United Nations AIDS agency has called some reports of the monkeypox virus racist and homophobic, warning of exacerbating stigma and undermining response to the growing outbreak.
UNAIDS said “a significant proportion” of recent monkeypox cases have been identified among gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men.
But the transmission most likely occurred through close physical contact with a monkeypox patient and can affect anyone, it added, saying some depictions of Africans and LGBTI people “reinforce homophobic and racist stereotypes and exacerbate stigma”.
On May 21, the World Health Organization received reports of 92 laboratory-confirmed cases of monkeypox and 28 suspected cases from 12 countries where the disease is not endemic, including several European countries, the US, Australia and Canada.
“Stigma and guilt undermine confidence and the ability to respond effectively during outbreaks such as these,” said Matthew Kavanagh, UNAIDS deputy director.
“Experience shows that stigmatizing rhetoric can quickly disable an evidence-based response by fueling cycles of fear, driving people away from health services, hindering efforts to identify cases and encouraging ineffective, punitive measures.”
Argentina’s health ministry said on Sunday it had discovered a suspected case of monkey pox in Buenos Aires amid growing global alarm over rising cases in Europe and elsewhere of the viral infection that is more common in West and Central Africa.
Israel and Switzerland both said they had identified an infected person who had recently traveled abroad. Israel is investigating other suspected cases.
Austria confirmed its first case of the virus on Sunday, while health authorities in the US said they may have found the country’s third case and were testing a patient in South Florida.
Symptoms of Monkeypox include fever, muscle aches, swollen lymph nodes, chills, exhaustion, and a chickenpox-like rash on the hands and face.
There is no treatment, but the symptoms usually disappear after two to four weeks. The disease is considered endemic in 11 African countries.