LGBTQ+ groups unite to urge UK ministers to act on monkey pox

LGBTQ+ groups across the political spectrum have come together to demand the government step up efforts to tackle monkeypox or risk it becoming endemic in the UK.

To date, there have been more than 2,600 cases of monkeypox in the UK, which in most cases affects gay, bisexual and men who have sex with men (GBMSM). The United States declared a public health emergency over the virus on Thursday, after the World Health Organization (WHO) last month declared it a global emergency.

UK health authorities have called for calm, but Westminster groups have now called on Health Secretary Steve Barclay to take action over monkeypox which “causes real fear and anxiety”.

“We stand united as LGBT+ groups from all political parties to call on the government to treat the monkeypox outbreak as a public health emergency,” a letter to Barclay signed by LGBTQ+ groups for the Conservatives, Labour, Lib Dems , the Greens and the Scottish National Party. said

“We cannot afford for monkeypox to become endemic in the UK. Fortunately, we now have the tools to stop this outbreak and prevent further health risks. We urge you to act urgently.”

The letter, which was also signed by sexual health charities including the Terrence Higgins Trust, said the government must prioritize communication and vaccination.

“We need clear, non-stigmatizing messages, delivered directly to GBMSM about the symptoms of monkeypox and what to do if you suspect you have the virus to inform and reassure people (rather than the current approach of pass-all which consistently mentions GBMSM). ),” said the authors, who included the Tories’ Luke Black and Matthew Lloyd of Labour.

“Messaging needs to reach communities at high risk of acquiring monkeypox, through targeted messaging in apps, online and queer media. Vaccinating those most at risk of smallpox must be a priority if we are to have the chance to prevent the virus from becoming endemic in the UK,” they added.

“We are very concerned that while mass vaccination events are a good way to build confidence that vaccines are happening, they can be a driver of inequality, particularly when there is insufficient supply of shots,” Lloyd said. separately “It’s time for improved systems and more purchases of this much-needed vaccine.”

The Terrence Higgins Trust also called for improvements to the vaccination effort. The charity’s head of policy, Ceri Smith, said: “We need urgent political action to control the rapidly increasing number of cases of monkeypox in the UK.

“That’s why we thank LGBT+ groups across political parties for coming together to call for a public health response that is commensurate with the scale of the problem, while gay and bisexual men continue to make up the vast majority of cases.

“We need to see much better co-ordination, increased vaccine procurement, improved delivery and an injection of cash into sexual health services to treat monkeypox which will also reverse the impact the outbreak is already having on STI testing and treatment, PrEP provision and contraceptive services.”

The NHS announced late last month that it was stepping up its monkeypox vaccination program in London as more supplies of the jab became available.

Vaccination experts have recommended that gay and bisexual men at higher risk of exposure to monkeypox be offered the Imvanex smallpox vaccine.

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A spokesman for the Department of Health and Social Care said: “Thousands of monkeypox vaccines have already been administered and the NHS is working to quickly invite those most at risk. We have procured more than 150,000 vaccines and are working with partners, including the NHS and the UK Health Safety Agency, to share targeted, non-stigmatising communications with the LGBTQ+ community.

“We are enabling local authorities to invest in essential frontline sexual health services by providing more than £3.4 billion through the Public Health Grant.”

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