The World Health Organization and UNAIDS have condemned western media portrayal of the latest Monkeypox outbreak as an African disease or a disease for gay men.
This comes after leading western media including the BBC, CNN, Reuters and ABC news used pictures of black skin to describe how the disease affects its victims.
The WHO said that as of May 21, it had received 82 laboratory confirmed cases of the virus in 21 countries outside West and Central Africa where the disease is endemic .
“Stigma and blame undermine trust and capacity to respond effectively during outbreaks like this one,” said the UNAIDS deputy executive director, Matthew Kavanagh.
“Experience shows that stigmatising rhetoric can quickly disable evidence-based response by stoking cycles of fear, driving people away from health services, impeding efforts to identify cases and encouraging ineffective, punitive measures,” Kavanagh added.
UNAIDS said “a significant proportion” of recent monkeypox cases have been identified among gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men, but transmission was most likely via close physical contact with a monkeypox sufferer and could affect anyone, it added, saying some portrayals of Africans and LGBTI people “reinforce homophobic and racist stereotypes and exacerbate stigma”.
The WHO also said in a statement that: “Stigmatising groups of people because of a disease is never acceptable. It can be a barrier to ending an outbreak as it may prevent people from seeking care, and lead to undetected spread.”
Despite the concern over the outbreak, global health experts have reassured the public that the outbreak is manageable because they believe the virus that causes the disease tends to be stable (does not mutate easily) and that its transmission is mostly through very close contact.
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