‘Viruses don’t care about sexual orientation, race’, experts warn against stigma

Days after the WHO issued an advisory asking gay and bisexual men to limit their sexual partners, Indian health experts and LGBTQ activists have highlighted the fact that monkeypox can be spread through any close physical contact. may spread and no particular community should be stigmatized.

Although monkeypox is not labeled as a sexually transmitted infection (STI), men who have sex with other men are the group currently most at risk of infection. According to WHO expert, Rosamond Lewis, about 99 percent of cases occur in men, and at least 95 percent of those infected are those who have sex with men.

The outbreak of the virus has brought back painful memories among members of the LGBTQ community of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the 80s when it was not only stigmatized, but the epidemic was not taken seriously and too late. Action was taken. AFP on Saturday.

“It happened in the community when Pride month was going on and there were more events going on in the community. It’s just a case of everyone going to a wedding and then getting Covid. So you need to see them as victims. and not as criminals,” said Indian equal rights activist Harish Iyer. PTI. He added that the LGBTQ community is already stigmatized and people who may have symptoms are now afraid to get tested for the virus.

“Even AIDS was called a gay-related disorder because it was thought to spread only among homosexuals. But homosexuals can also have more than one partner.

“The WHO has a precedent. They know what happened during the AIDS epidemic and their cautionary message could have been clearer. They could have been more careful. Why do they assume that homosexuals There is no more than one partner,” Ayer said.

Trans community health expert Anmol Singh said there was a risk that people would begin to distance themselves from the community, further isolating members. “The stigmatized idea that we have more sexual partners or that we are more sexually active than any other straight man,” Singh said, adding that health care workers should The fact needs to be emphasized that any close physical contact can spread the virus, regardless of sexual orientation or race.

Dr. Somesh Gupta, Professor, Department of Dermatology and Venereology, AIIMS, Delhi noted that while the Covid-19 pandemic has forced the mainstream media to report more extensively on the latest developments in healthcare. What is compelling, without the disposition of medical professionals, can be weaponized. For sensationalism

“It’s happening again, this time with monkeypox, a disease that apparently spreads not only sexually but also through close contact, including skin-to-skin and skin-to-clothing such as in a family living together or at lunch. Meeting friends for a meal, suggested Dr. Gupta.

“Unfortunately, this [monkeypox] Native to Africa, a continent largely overlooked in terms of their knowledge. With an increase in new cases, it is being identified earlier in gay and bisexual circles than others because it involves intimate skin-to-skin contact. But it has also been found in semen samples,” he added.

“If we are not careful, the story of HIV-AIDS will repeat itself, a deja vu. Stigmatized and isolated, patients will not report symptoms and will not seek treatment, resulting in further transmission when “That the misinformed majority gay population and even health departments mistakenly assume they are not at risk,” said Dr. Gupta.

Adding to this, Dr. Satish Cole, director, Internal Medicine, Forts Memorial Research Institute, points out that stigma can fuel cycles of fear, quickly disable evidence-based responses, and deter people from seeking medical services. can This could further hamper efforts to identify cases and control outbreaks.

“We must urge media outlets, governments and communities to respond with a rights-based, evidence-based approach that avoids stigma.

Dr Cole added that “stigma and blame undermine confidence and the ability to respond effectively during such outbreaks.”

“Instead of scapegoating or demonizing or labeling entire communities as ‘spreaders,’ it’s important to talk about it in accessible and positive ways,” said Raj Mariwala. Attention should be paid to being accurate about how the virus is transmitted as well as how to protect yourself.” , Director, Mariwala Health Initiative. “Transmission occurs primarily through close physical contact, regardless of sexual orientation or gender. This is equally relevant for any tight social network, not just LGBTQIA communities,” she added.

High-grade fever, sore throat, painful swelling in the back and rectal pain are some of the symptoms experienced by the affected patients. As the infection progresses, fluid-filled blisters are seen on the face, palms, soles, and mouth and genitals, which remain infectious until the sores dry and crust over as new skin forms underneath. fall into

People who identify as transgender or have gender differences may be more susceptible to the current monkeypox outbreak, said Dr Somol Ratna, assistant professor at Noida International Institute of Medical Sciences. However, he cautioned that it was crucial to avoid stigmatizing the LGBTQ community or Africans as “disease carriers”.

“Although we are finding clusters, especially in certain populations, the virus does not care about a person’s sexual orientation, religion or race. Keep your distance from anyone who is exhibiting symptoms,” he said. said

The symptoms of monkeypox exhibited by patients in the current outbreak are similar to those seen in patients infected with smallpox in the past, although monkeypox is clinically less severe, according to the WHO.

Early symptoms include a high fever, swollen lymph nodes, and a chickenpox-like rash, followed by fluid-filled skin lesions that are contagious until they dry and fall off.

The disease usually resolves on its own after two to three weeks, sometimes up to a month.

(with PTI input)

Read all Latest news And Latest news Here