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Colorado WINS Calls for CDPHE to Follow Scientific Language and Guidance Regarding Monkeypox

May 31, 2022

In a recent press release from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Safety which sought to update the public on a new case of monkeypox in Colorado, officials stated that “men who have sex with men” are at higher risk. This is a misleading phrase that may guide the public to believe this disease may only be spread between gay men.

Per the CDC, this disease is not explicitly a sexually transmitted disease. While it can be spread through intimate contact, it can also be spread through direct contact with bodily fluids, with contaminated clothes, or respiratory droplets between anyone of any sexual identity.

Andy Seale, an adviser for the WHO cautioned people not to use the disease as a way to negatively label any particular community. "There's a lot of stigma and discrimination that surrounds many diseases, and I think the key thing we need to look out for is, as WHO, to work with our partners in communities and elsewhere to make sure that the messaging is correct. So while we are seeing some cases among men who have sex with men, this is not a gay disease."

According to Dr. John Brooks, chief medical officer for the CDC's Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention "Some groups may have a greater chance of exposure right now, but by no means is the current risk of exposure to monkeypox exclusively to the gay and bisexual community in the US. Anyone, anyone, can develop [and] spread monkeypox infection, but ... many of those affected in the current global outbreak identified as gay and bisexual men."

Language like this stigmatizes the LGBTQ community and stokes unnecessary fear which could isolate people from seeking treatment, or even incite violence against certain communities, like we have recently seen with the AAPI community during COVID.

The CDC recommends that anyone with a new or unexplained rash get it checked by a medical professional. People who are infected should stay isolated at home, away from people and pets, should wear a surgical mask and should cover their lesions as much as possible until they have healed. They should avoid close contact with children, people who are pregnant and those who have weakened immune systems because these groups are at higher risk of complications if they catch the virus.

We, the undersigned, demand the CDPHE to follow scientific language and guidance and not unnecessarily stoke fear in the LGBTQ community.

Colorado WINS Executive Board
United for a New Economy (UNE)
Colorado Peoples Action (COPA)
Colorado AFL-CIO