A State of Emergency with a Solution: Prioritize LGBTQ+ Health Equity Today
We went from 1 monkeypox case in May to 5,000+ preventable cases today. I am devastated by how many people are in horrific pain. Pain and suffering could have been avoided had the U.S. followed its own predictions and prepared to respond.
Since the 2003 U.S. monkeypox outbreak, experts predicted another. And as HIV and COVID taught us, an outbreak would dominate in marginalized populations who face barriers to health equity.
We are now in a state of emergency as declared by WHO (World Health Organization) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
The emergency is the rapid spread, but that is not where the emergency ends:
The emergency is that prior to this outbreak, the US had an effective monkeypox test, effective medications, and an effective vaccine, yet our highest-risk populations still do not have access to it.
The emergency is that many people, presently infected with monkeypox, are experiencing severe pain; pain so significant that eating and eliminating waste requires pain medication and in some cases, hospitalization.
The emergency is that even prior to this outbreak, organized political discrimination against LGBTQ+ populations has been steadily increasing.
DAP Health was founded because many in power failed our community. While AIDS attacked us from one side, apathy, and hatred towards the LGBTQ+ community slowed the response, leaving us alone with a virus that robbed us of loved ones.
It took until July 23 for the WHO to declare monkeypox a global health emergency - stating it was partly because the disease had not moved out of the primary risk group, men who have sex with men. Sadly, it should come as no surprise the US response remains slow and inadequate for LGBTQ+ community members worried about contracting monkeypox and to the thousands of people who have already been diagnosed.
The only reason the monkeypox virus has not been contained is that the U.S. has yet to treat this threat to the health of gay, bisexual, and transgender people as the health emergency it is. New York and San Fransisco, both early in the response to HIV and COVID, have declared a state of emergency. Like DAP Health, they have been here before and they know that now is the time for a coordinated and swift response.
DAP Health, with a patient population of 10,000, has only received 497 doses of vaccine and has yet to receive the TPOXX medication for treatment. Our nation’s LGBTQ+ community health centers, with a history of treating the community’s physical and mental health; with expertise in addressing stigma and discrimination, are most likely to reach those at risk for monkeypox, and yet, we are being overlooked and under-resourced.
There is a solution to this health emergency:
LGBTQ+ organizations should be the priority for vaccine supply and medications for treatment; because our approach strengthens the LGBTQ+ community. To end monkeypox, we must confront the discrimination in the US that has enabled this preventable crisis.
LGBTQ+ health equity goes beyond a “shot in the arm.” Our approach addresses the health disparities faced by LGBTQ+ communities by incorporating free HIV and STI testing and treatment, free PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis), and PEP (Post-Exposure Prophylaxis) services, and access to affordable primary care, mental health, and substance use recovery.
Every one of us needs to do our part. Let our elected officials know there is NO EXCUSE for another week of cases doubling while people suffer in excruciating pain. Let our elected officials know we are in a state of emergency and that the time has come to prioritize LGBTQ+ health equity.
Here is an update about how we are prioritizing the distribution of the doses received and how we continue to respond to the current health emergency.
DAP Health administered all 160 doses provided in our first allotment from the Riverside Department of Public Health.
On Friday, DAP Health received 337 additional doses. High-risk DAP Health patients and community members who fit the current priority guidelines received an invitation to schedule an appointment for the JYNNEOS vaccine.
DAP Health’s monkeypox hotline launched on August 1, and we are adding invitation-only Saturday vaccine clinics beginning August 6.
DAP Health MPX Hotline: 760-656-8432 or MPOX@daphealth.org
To stay up to date on the latest developments regarding Monkeypox please visit our landing page: daphealth.org/monkeypox