Slow U.S. Response to Monkeypox Puts Vulnerable Groups at Risk

WASHINGTON (Sept. 16,2022) -- An editorial published today in the American Journal of Public Health calls the U.S. approach to monkeypox (MPX) unequal and marked by a lack of reliable data, testing and vaccine access.

“This appalling scenario mimics the poor, early response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” says Carlos Rodriguez-Diaz, an associate professor of prevention and community health at the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health. Rodriguez-Diaz is the first author of the commentary.

Rodriguez-Diaz and his colleagues say that the public health response has been challenged by the limited data to allocate resources where needed. . They go on to say that while nearly 22,000 MPX cases have been reported to date in the U.S., that number is likely an undercount. High rates of MPX are occurring in every region of the country. MPX cases are currently in moderate decline but this trend varies around the country and by race/ethnicity and HIV status. 

Men who have sex with men (MSM) and particularly Black and Latino MSM and those with HIV have been especially hard hit by MPX, the authors say. 

The authors argue that these groups also continue to face stigma, which can make it harder to access testing, vaccines and treatment. “Homophobia and other forms of discrimination kill,” the authors say. “If prevention services fail–the impact of this virus among men who have sex with men, particularly among Black and Latino MSM will be devastating.”