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LGBTQ Community Experiences Negative Stigmas as Monkeypox Cases Rise

As the monkeypox virus continues to spread and state of emergencies have been declared, the LGBTQ community has been hit hard by negative stigmas surrounding the virus.

What started off as a few international cases has now grown to hundreds of cases throughout the U.S.

Some of the hardest hit parts have been California and more specifically, parts of Southern California.

A majority of the early confirmed cases of monkeypox were found in men who identified as having sex with other men. It seemed that the virus began spreading after large events.

The number of cases in LA County continues to grow as more and more cities are reporting confirmed cases.

As the virus became more well-known, the LGBTQ community began receiving more scrutiny.

Information about monkeypox being a sexually transmitted disease and only affecting gay or bisexual men began spreading on social media.

Ismael Salamanca, the director of health services at the LGBTQ Center in Long Beach, says that the stigmas around the LGBTQ community surrounding the spread of monkeypox is hurting other communities as well.

“Now not only are we stigmatizing our community but we are stigmatizing other folks outside of the LGBTQ community who might be at risk, who might have been exposed, and who be showing symptoms but are going to be too scared to go get checked out or seek help,” Salamanca said. “We are going to see this grow into other groups if we don’t shut these stigmas down. “

One way his center is combatting negative stigmas is by making sure people have access to resources and information.

“I think we are experiencing that moment where the cases have been predominate with one group and we are only reporting that versus on what and how monkeypox is transmitted,” Salamanca said.

His center has been working closely with the LA County Health Department since the virus began showing up in LA.

Monkeypox is not classified as a sexually transmitted disease

“Since the beginning, we have been involved with listening and participating in deciding what direction we should take when it comes to monkeypox vaccine,” Salamanca said.

“The city of Long Beach has its own health department within the County of Los Angeles so we function in tandem and sometimes in direct response to the steps that LA County takes,” Salamanca said. “We have always been more of a point of resource and a point of direction for the LGBTQ community.”

The country has seen a monkeypox vaccine shortage which means only people who are considered at risk or have been exposed are eligible to receive the vaccine.

Salamanca and his staff have been working to host vaccine clinics and make sure those individuals eligible are getting registered.

“We’ve been helping get people registered for the health departments vaccine clinics and working with the health department to create one-day or multiple-day vaccine clinics here at the center,” Salamanca said.

The monkeypox outbreak comes two years after COVID was declared a global pandemic and the world saw massive shutdowns.

Over two years later cases of COVID remain high in some parts of the country and third and fourth boosters of vaccines are still being rolled out.

“I think that because of COVID we are a bit more aware about the flaws that come with rolling out a vaccine on an emergency basis,” Salamanca said. “With monkeypox and the national vaccine shortage that is happening, I think there is a little bit more frustration.

There is also frustration about the fact that another virus is spreading quickly while COVID still lingers. People are experiencing burnout when it comes to dealing with viruses.

“To talk about burnout that people tend to use post-COVID is that I think the people who are burnout are the people who are running these pop-up clinics,” Salamanca said. “There isn’t a plethora of healthcare workers that are willing to come in and pop up and do these clinics. That’s where I think we are seeing the burnout.”

To get more information about monkeypox in LA County including testing, symptoms, and eligibility for the vaccine use this link.

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