Expert cites miscommunication, missteps in monkeypox outbreak

September 23 – The public health response to the monkeypox outbreak has been marked by miscommunication in warning vulnerable groups about the virus and missteps in providing vaccine doses.

That’s the assessment of Antón Castellanos Usigli, a DrPH candidate at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and one of three public health experts quoted in a September 21 article in Global Citizen about the monkeypox outbreak. Castellanos Usigli is founder and CEO of ACU Innovation and Consulting, a firm that specializes in healthcare innovation and strategy, and he sits on the Global Advisory Board for Sexual Health and Wellbeing.

Although early signs suggested that monkeypox was mostly infecting among men who have sex with men (MSM) and was spread through close contact, public health officials around the world didn’t adequately inform LGBTQ+ groups about the danger, and also failed to provide enough vaccine doses to protect at-risk people, Castellanos Usigli said.

“Not mentioning that most of the cases are happening among MSM is homophobic because it makes our communities and their suffering invisible,” he said. For example, he cited “institutional homophobia” in the public health response to the virus in Latin America. “In some cases, they seem to be completely ignoring it,” he said.

He noted that discrimination and stigma have characterized the outbreak, with some labeling monkeypox a “gay disease.” Not only is this characterization inaccurate, it also downplays the risk. Monkeypox “can affect people of all ages, genders, and identities,” Castellanos Usigli said.

To improve communication around monkeypox, he recommended that public health officials seek input from leaders in the LGBTQ+ community. “We have amazing expertise in our community; leaders who have fought throughout the years for greater equity, access to healthcare, and for positive sexual health services,” he said. “They should be at the forefront of developing these messages.”

Read the Global Citizen article: 12 Big Questions You Have About Monkeypox, Answered by Health Experts