By: Courtney Johnson, Communities of Color and Media Consultant and MPV Subject Matter Expert
On May 6, 2022, the first case of Monkeypox Virus (MPV) was reported in the United Kingdom in a patient with a recent travel history that included Nigeria, where MPV is endemic. Ten days later, four new cases, with no link to travel where MPV is endemic, were reported.
On August 4, the MPV outbreak was declared a public health emergency by the United States Department of Health and Human Services. Since the beginning of the outbreak, GLAAD has been looking at data patterns and trends, and has discovered some of the following updates.
The most recent surveillance of MPV cases shows that the top three communities most affected by MPV are Black, non-Hispanic people (making up 51% of cases), White, non-Hispanic people (making up 21% of cases), and Hispanic people (making up 17% of cases). Additionally, as of September 27, MPV vaccination data shows that White people make up 47% of all first dose vaccinations given, while Black, non-Hispanic and Hispanic people made up only 11% and 20% of first dose vaccinations respectively.
This data is only confirmation of what was already known: when it comes to the health of communities of color, specifically Black gay men and queer men of color in this scenario, health equity does not exist. Black men who have sex with men are at a higher risk of contracting MPV due to having smaller sexual networks. With that information being public and widely known, we must question why our public health response to MPV has been lackluster in its concern for, and attention to, the Black community. This cannot be written off as an oversight and must be deemed as negligence, as this unvaried pattern has occurred in Black and brown communities over the course of several health crises. This repetitive lack of care and support shown to communities of color by federal public health institutions has consistently been remedied by in-community advocates, trailblazers, and neighbors using our resources to answer the various calls of our community, and our experience and response to MPV has been no different.
In the face of such a gap in health equity, Black and brown communities have repeatedly had to step up and rally together to bridge the gap in care and correct the deficit in a system that is supposed to care and exist “for the people,” but that often excludes communities of color.
Deviant, a space created for Black and brown queer people, offered slots to sign up for MPV vaccination upon entry to a community event in New York City. “Feel comfortable coming out to party and meet members of local clinics to get the resources you need to live healthy and happy,” their Instagram caption promoting the event read.
Us Helping Us, a community-based organization (CBO) in the greater Washington, D.C. area that is working to achieve health equity for underserved and marginalized populations, spearheaded an MPV first dose clinic for residents and workers in PG County.
According to a recently published research study, “Ensuring equity in approaches to monkeypox testing, treatment, and prevention is critical, and taking actions to minimize stigma related to monkeypox can reduce barriers to seeking care and prevention.”
Health equity for the majority of Black and brown people is a foreign concept, not in that we don’t understand it, but in that we have not yet experienced it. The truth is that MPV has existed in Africa since the 1970s, with the prevention of the disesase now becoming a priority only because non-marginalized and privileged communities across the globe have been impacted.
“It is imperative that the focus is on containing the outbreak in MSM communities of color and other populations at elevated risk for HIV. It is important that we, as a community, push policies that focus on prioritizing those communities needing the most alleviation,” said Elaine O. Nsoesie, a researcher at the Center for Antiracist Research at Boston University.
For more MPV updates, keep an eye out for our upcomming, MPV specific programming, including a series of Instagram Live GLAAD Hangouts with healthcare providers and community leaders heavily involved in mobilizing our community around MPV. Check out our social media for further MPV updates, programming, information, and recommendations, and be sure to utilize the list below to find and access MPV related resources in your city.
Resource List by State:
- Los Angeles
- San Diego
- San Francisco
There are currently four commercial labs that offer the CDC-developed, FDA-cleared non-variola Orthopoxvirus test:
Quest Diagnostics also offers a PCR test that was developed by Quest internally.
Nsoesie, Elaine O., and Cecilia Vu. “Monkeypox: Where are the racial disparities?.” The Lancet Regional Health – Americas, 2022.
Rodriguez-Diaz, C.E., Crowley, J.S., Santiago-Rivera, Y., and Millett, G.A. “From COVID-19 to Monkeypox: Unlearned Lessons for Black, Latino, and Other Men Who Have Sex with Men.” American Journal of Public Health, (0), e1-e5, 2022.