The spread of the Monkeypox Virus (hMPXV) — which the World Health Organization deemed a global emergency — has exposed deep disparities in the LGBTQ+ community. People of color, individuals with lower-incomes, and those living outside large cities face disproportionate challenges getting tested, vaccinated, and treated during this outbreak of the virus.
hMPXV, while rarely deadly, is a serious infection that can cause intense pain, scarring, and in some cases hospitalization. This spring, hMPXV spread beyond central and west Africa to other parts of the world, including the United States. To date, 4,639 Americans have been diagnosed with hMPXV, and six Missourians have been diagnosed. To be clear, due to a profound and unacceptable lack of access to testing, these numbers are almost certainly extreme undercounts.
The vast majority of people who have tested positive for hMPXV are gay and bisexual men and transgender people. While anyone can contract hMPXV, the virus has overwhelmingly affected LGBTQ+ people.
“We are not seeing nearly enough of an effective and coordinated statewide response in educating Missourians, keeping them safe, and prioritizing an equitable distribution of care for those most vulnerable to hMPXV. Time is of the essence — The Missouri Department of Health and Human Services should already be in communities including people living with HIV, Black and Latinx, sex workers, transgender people, LGBTQ+ people, and people who use drugs to provide education, interface with researchers, government officials, and community members, to support the delivery of vaccination and other services with community-based clinical providers,” said Shira Berkowitz, Senior Director of Public Policy and Advocacy.
We have a safe and effective vaccine for hMPXV — the JYNNEOS vaccine — though its supply is currently very limited. Many of the counties in Missouri lack the supply to vaccinate everyone seeking the vaccine.
Given the vastly disparate impacts on the LGBTQ+ community during both the HIV/AIDS epidemic and the COVID-19 pandemic, we are demanding a robust response from the Federal government and the State of Missouri to stop the spread of hMPXV and protect the health of LGBTQ+ individuals now. We call upon the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services to quickly allocate and distribute additional doses of the JYNNEOS vaccine, and to intensify its efforts to streamline access to testing resources and antiviral medications.