Sunday, June 23, 2024

Disproportionate Spread of Monkeypox Amongst the Black and Latino Community

About 17,000 cases of monkeypox have been recorded since May, and according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data, Black people make up a third of cases, while Latinos make up about 32% of cases. This data shows that Black and Latinos are disproportionately contracting the monkeypox virus.

Although Black and Latinos are inordinately catching the virus, fewer are getting the vaccine. White House officials reported Black people received only 10% of shots against the monkeypox virus. Hispanic people received 22%, while their White counterparts received about 47%.

With this data in mind, the Biden administration announced an intervention program to ensure high-risk individuals get the vaccine against the virus. Ten thousand vaccines will be distributed to targeted, smaller-scale interventions. Distribution will focus on locations with Black and Latino LGBTQ individuals.

Experts say they are aware of vaccine equity and that these targeted programs are needed to help close the gap. They also see parallels between COVID-19 vaccine disparities and monkeypox. “You can superimpose COVID, and the data would be very similar, unfortunately,” said Dr. Jonathan Appelbaum, a Florida State University’s College of Medicine professor. “It’s just a microcosm of the health inequity in this country.”

Groups like the Human Rights Campaign and the Kaiser Family Foundation have issued statements and facts reporting the racial disparities and asking for equitable responses. Experts need complete data to understand who needs treatment and where to focus efforts to reduce harm and cultivate trust in these communities.

Dr. Maya Green, a physician, and chief medical officer at Howard Brown Health in Chicago, says, “we can’t be surprised. We know this is historically what happens,” pointing to COVID-19 and other diseases. Black and LGBTQ people of color are also victims of another layer of stigma because of their lifestyle. After contracting the virus, Green says, some may “stay at home and wait for it to go away in shame.”

Appelbaum agrees and says that gay people of color struggle with specific barriers. “Being a gay man, a man in the Black population, and even in the Hispanic population is, in many ways, much more stigmatizing than in the white population,” Appelbaum said.

A Center for American Progress survey reported that 36% of Latinos in the LGBTQ community face discrimination and 20% said they avoid necessary services to steer clear of such experiences.

Dr. Paulina Rebolledo, a physician and infectious disease professor at Emory University School of Medicine, said prioritizing help and information to those at risk, but so is cautious public health messaging to the public is essential in trying to destigmatize the disease. The disease can spread to anyone, regardless of sexual orientation. It spreads through close, prolonged contact with an infected person’s sores, scabs, and bodily fluids. Rebolledo emphasizes that “viruses do not discriminate.”

USA Today