CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) – Members of the LGBTQ+ community are raising concerns about being heavily targeted in the media and in society for the spread of monkeypox.
Chip Jenkins, the President of Lowcountry Pride, says his organization has had a lot of conversations about access to the vaccine for LGBTQ+ people.
Jenkins says he knows about 30-40 people in his community that at least have their first dose of the vaccine and probably 100 that are still trying. He says if they cannot get a shot in South Carolina, some have been driving to Georgia.
He says seeing how people are blaming the spread of monkeypox on gay men is insulting and compares it to how the public reacted to the spread of AIDS. He says it is not a sexuality issue, but a human issue because a virus does not discriminate.
“We allowed our community to be subject to discrimination, hate for, in this realm because it was only gays that could get it,” Jenkins said. “Gay men. This isn’t about sexuality, about gender, it’s about being human.”
Jenkins says he wants people to know that it is spread by human touch, regardless of sexuality. He says he believes that if the letters “LGBTQ+” were left out in the original mention of monkeypox, health officials could have stepped up faster.
“If we just literally took gender and sexuality out of everything we do on a daily basis and just say a human-contracted disease, it doesn’t matter what you do,” Jenkins said. “I mean, this is by touch. This is highly transmittable. I mean, it doesn’t matter who you are.”
Toby Fugate, D.O., Medical Director of Ryan White Wellness Center, says gay men are not different from the average person when getting this virus. He says anyone can get it through close, intimate contact.
“They’re not different at all,” Fugate said. “It just so happens that that infection has made it into that community, and it’s being spread amongst that community. But it’s pretty clear that that infection has spread outside of that community.”
Fugate says close, intimate contact is anyone that is within six feet of someone else for more than three hours at a time. He says this would need to be some sort of skin-to-skin contact, such as sexual intercourse.
There is a rise in monkeypox case numbers, and they are more prevalent in the gay and bisexual community, but it does not mean gay and bisexual men are more susceptible to the virus. Fugate says most of the cases are coming from this community, for now.
To put it in numbers, Fugate says out of the 6,700 monkeypox cases in the U.S., about 1,000 of those cases are not gay or bisexual men.
He says he believes news outlets need to be cautious when sharing medical information on their platforms to avoid misinformation.
“I think everyone on the news, related to this, they need to be very cautious with how they say things,” Fugate said. “And when you add to that, social media, you have a lot of false information floating around. I’ve already said this, but I’ll say it again, this is a virus that anyone can get. There’s nothing special about the gay/bisexual community that makes them more susceptible. Anybody can get this.”
He says gay and bisexual men can call DHEC at 855-472-3432 for further assistance on how to get the vaccine.
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