Advocacy groups caution against stigma in monkeypox messaging, say disease awareness should be for all
Stigma deters people from coming forward to get tested, putting everyone at risk, says Pink Dot SG.
SINGAPORE: Groups advocating for communities who may be at risk during the monkeypox outbreak have cautioned against stigmatising their members.
Any public health message should be for everyone who is sexually active, said Mr Leow Yangfa, executive director of Oogachaga, an organisation that works with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, queer and gender-diverse (LGBTQ+) people.
"(This is) regardless of their sexual identity, gender identity and relationship status," he told CNA.
Pink Dot SG drew reference from World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who said that stigma and scapegoating could make the outbreak harder to track.
"It is important to remember that anyone can catch the disease. Stigma deters people from coming forward to get tested and that puts all of us at risk, regardless of sexual orientation," said a Pink Dot SG spokesperson.
Singapore on Wednesday (Jul 27) reported its 11th monkeypox case, a 32-year-old Singaporean man.
On Monday, the Ministry of Health (MOH) said that in line with WHO recommendations, efforts have been taken to reach out to the "at-risk" population through healthcare and community partners. This is done to raise awareness of monkeypox virus transmission and the precautionary measures to reduce the risk of onward transmission.
The WHO has previously said that the outbreak was "concentrated among men who have sex with men, especially those with multiple sexual partners".
Another at-risk population group that the UN health body has spoken about are sex workers.
Project X, which advocates for sex workers in Singapore, put up an advisory on its social media platforms a week ago.
In it, the organisation explains how monkeypox is transmitted, including through sexual activities and non-sexual activities like skin-to-skin contact from rubbing against others at concerts and crowded places.
Project X urged its audience to screen clients for their travel history to affected countries, check for sudden unexplained rashes on themselves and sex partners and clean surfaces regularly.
Oogachaga and Pink Dot also said they have been engaging members of their respective communities by reproducing and sharing information on their social media platforms.
Mr Leow said his organisation finds the public health messages put out by MOH, National Centre for Infectious Diseases and Action for AIDS particularly helpful.
Pink Dot has been actively sharing social media advisories by Project X and Action for AIDS and will continue to do so, its spokesperson said.
More than 16,000 confirmed cases of monkeypox in more than 75 countries have been confirmed this year, with five deaths reported in Africa.