As pride looms, Spanish LGBTQ groups wary of monkeypox stigma

MADRID (AP) — As Europe’s largest gay pride celebration is approaching, Spain’s LGBTQ community is concerned that an outbreak of monkeypox on the continent could lead to an increase in homophobia based on misunderstandings about the disease.

Spanish health authorities said on Thursday that the country now has 84 confirmed cases, the highest in Europe. The Madrid region said in a statement on Friday that the tally included one woman, but did not provide any further details.

Health authorities have been focusing their investigation on a link between a gay pride event in the Canary Islands that drew some 80,000 people in early May and cases linked to Madrid’s saunas.

But some, especially gay and bisexual men, see a tinge of homophobic hysteria in the wider public response to the rare outbreak of the disease outside Africa, which has long been endemic .

Most known cases in Europe have occurred in men who have sex with men, according to authorities in the UK, Spain, Germany and Portugal. A senior adviser to the World Health Organization said the outbreak was likely sparked by sex at the last two mass events in Europe.

The outbreak in Spain comes on the eve of Madrid’s Gay Pride celebrations, which will take place in early July. Unlike events that have been scaled back or canceled due to COVID-19 restrictions in the past two years, it is expected to draw large crowds. The city’s last pre-pandemic pride celebration in 2019 drew about 1.6 million revellers, organizers said, although police put the number at about 400,000.

“Pride is a big party, it’s a moment for our voices to be heard, it brings a lot of people together,” Mario Braziquez, health program coordinator for Madrid-based LGBTQ group COGAM, told The Associated Press. .”

Blázquez said he was concerned that next month’s Pride celebrations could be threatened by overzealous restrictions, partly driven by bias and partly by fears of another happening outside the lingering COVID-19 pandemic. on-site public health emergency.

“We don’t know what’s going to happen. We don’t know what the spread of the virus is going to be, and we don’t know what legal measures can be taken. And then what stigma might come from these sometimes discriminatory legal measures.”

So far, Spanish authorities have not mentioned any comprehensive public health measures that would hinder large gatherings.

But after the pride parade, Blázquez said he feared society could make the same mistakes it did at the start of the HIV/AIDS crisis in the 1980s, when the focus on gay men’s disease overshadowed its spread among the wider population.

“It’s a disease that anyone can get,” Braziks said. “We’re facing an outbreak that unfortunately hits LGBTQ people again, especially gay and bisexual men. What’s happening is somewhat similar to the first HIV cases.”

Health authorities in Europe, North America, Israel and Australia have identified more than 150 cases of the disease in recent weeks. It’s an astonishing outbreak of a disease that rarely occurs outside Africa and has been a serious health threat since the first cases were detected in humans in the 1970s.

Experts say anyone can become infected through close contact with a sick person, their clothing or sheets. Most people recover in two to four weeks without hospitalization. However, the World Health Organization says 3-6% of recent cases have been fatal.

Health officials around the world are watching for more cases as the disease appears to be spreading among people who have not been to Africa for the first time. However, they stress that the risk to the general population is low.

As of Thursday, Italy had confirmed 10 cases of monkeypox, some but not all of them in people who had been to Spain’s Canary Islands.

“With regard to sexual transmission, I don’t think we can yet strictly define it as a sexually transmitted disease,” said Dr. Andrea Antinori, director of viral immunodeficiency at the Spallanzani Hospital in Rome.

“So I would currently avoid identifying the disease as a sexually transmitted disease, and most importantly, identify the population – men who have sex with men – as carriers of the disease, because I believe it’s also a matter of liability. There is no point of stigmatizing the situation.

“This disease remains to be understood because the new wave we face is different from what we have historically recognized over the past few decades.”

Spain’s Health Minister Carolina Darias said on Wednesday her government had decided to opt into the European Union to buy the monkeypox vaccine collectively, which, like the COVID-19 vaccine, will be distributed based on the population of each participating country. Once a vaccine is more widely available, government health experts are considering how to use it, she said.

Amos García, president of the Spanish Association of Vaccines, suggested that vaccines should only be given to people who are in direct contact with infected people and are vulnerable, rather than the general population.

“We’re talking about a disease that’s unlikely to become an epidemic,” Garcia said, adding that most Spaniards over the age of 40 should be protected by the smallpox vaccine that was given regularly decades ago.

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Ciarán Giles in Madrid, Joseph Wilson and Trisha Thomas Rome in Barcelona contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2022 The Washington Times, LLC.



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