Concerns over stigmatizing the LGBTQ+ community rise as monkeypox spreads

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Saturday, July 30, 2022
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There's concern about stigmatizing the LGBTQ+ community as local leaders work to slow the spread of monkeypox and misinformation.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- As monkeypox spreads, so is concern about stigmatizing the LGBTQ+ community -- and local leaders are working to slow the spread of the virus and misinformation ahead of an event this weekend.

"I don't want young, queer kids to be ashamed of who they are or who they love or how they love, and think that's really important as we face this," said Suzanne Ford, Interim CEO, San Francisco Pride, noting the dangers of stigmatizing the community.

RELATED: San Francisco declares local public health emergency over monkeypox amid rise in cases

"I think maybe people might not go to receive treatment. People might not be as quick to help," said Ford. "If you remember back at the beginning of the HIV crisis, it was hard to find people who would treat us and then people became isolated and it just compounded itself."

"We shouldn't cast any aspersions or stigmas on that group. It just so happens that's the group that had the introduction," said Dr. Yvonne Maldonado, a leading infectious diseases expert at Stanford, adding the virus could have easily targeted a different group of people.

"If it had been introduced into a community of daycare centers, for example, you might have seen a lot of spread through children in daycare because they have a lot of skin-to-skin contact," said Dr. Maldonaldo, adding the focus needs to be on slowing the spread of the virus - not stigmatizing those impacted. "Hopefully if we take measures very quickly, we can not only help that community, but keep it from spreading outside."

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Preventing the virus from spreading is top of mind for the organizers of Up Your Alley. The event is expected to draw thousands of members of the LGBTQ+ community together Sunday.

"As soon as it became clear that M-pox was going to have a big impact, specifically on events and spaces that are explicitly sex-positive and rooted in sexual liberation, we were in communication with the M-pox task force," said Angel Adeyoha, executive director of Folsom Street, the nonprofit behind the event.

Organizers have been working alongside San Francisco's Department of Public Health ahead of the event. "We're providing more hand sanitizing stations, we are providing more outreach and information - we are limiting public participation," said Adeyoha. "Usually we have some pretty participatory spots, especially with our stage - right now it's only folks who are hired and have been double vaccinated and cleared to be on stage."

RELATED: US government took 'wait-and-see' monkeypox approach; deprioritized gay men's health, report says

They're also asking people to take note of any symptoms of monkeypox, such as a fever or rash. "We're also really encouraging folks that if you feel unwell don't press through. Stay home. Keep yourself and the community safe - there's always another party."

And if anyone knows anything about putting a party - it's San Francisco Pride.

"COVID was still going on - we took some extra precautions, but people came and we were able to be together and think we can do that this weekend as well," said Ford.

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