Monkey pox: ‘bad luck’ reminds us of the early days of AIDS

The outbreak of monkeypox, which currently mainly affects men who have sex with men (MSM), brings back bad memories of the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s and 1990s. Symptoms, and above all the stigmatization of this society, worries today.

Although nearly all cases of monkeypox have been reported in the gay, bisexual, and transgender communities, public health and field respondents emphasize the potential stigma risk with adverse effects. Currently, there is no clear reason why MSM is mainly affected by this virus. Public Health Canada (PHAC) has confirmed that the virus is not sexually transmitted and that there is “no discrimination”.

Avoid past mistakes

Dr. Reagan Thomas, HIV specialist and founding president of Clinique médicale l’Actuel, works with the LGBTQ2+ community. He called for warning against repeating the mistakes of the past, as happened with the emergence of AIDS in the eighties.

According to him, the arrival of monkeypox evoked heavy memories in his older patients who suffered from the onset of AIDS. The appearance of spots and sores and the fact that men who have sex with other men are mainly affected at the moment may remind some of the emergence of this deadly virus.

It reminds them of the stigma they suffered at that time and still suffer greatly from. […] It brings back many questions and even painful memories of many patients.

Dr. Reagan Thomas

“We didn’t need that. […] The stigma remains. Homophobia still exists, even if we think everything is resolved in Quebec. There is still a lot of homophobia out there both in the medical field and otherwise. The doctor adds that the addition of “monkey pox” and “homosexuals” is a severe stigma.

However, Dr. Thomas is pleased that the monkeypox cases encountered remain benign for the time being. We notice sores on the genitals, but this virus remains much less dangerous than HIV.

A virus that spares no one

For Alain Lamarre, an expert in virology from the National Institute for Scientific Research (INRS), monkeypox could have affected other societies. It is reported that an outbreak of monkeypox is recorded every year in Africa, affecting all types of people regardless of their sexual orientation. It also shows that cases were already identified in the 2000s in the United States.

“It is unfortunate that there has been transmission and it is fundamentally affecting this community,” he said. If we can get the epidemic under control, I don’t think they will be more vulnerable in the future than the general public.

For Alain Lamarie, it will depend on how public health deals with the outbreak. Most worrying, he says, is that the virus is leaving society to affect populations at risk of contracting severe forms, for example children and pregnant women.

It also stresses the importance of not stigmatizing the communities concerned and informing the population most at risk of contracting the disease.

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