Health officials need to balance warning populations about monkeypox without stigmatizing them

More representation from LGBTQ+ community helps

So far, nearly 27,000 monkeypox cases have been identified worldwide and that number continues to grow.

Since the beginning of the global outbreak, public officials have struggled with the best way to share important information with at-risk people.

There are currently 71 confirmed or suspected cases of monkeypox in Michigan. Concern over cases is growing, but so are fears over stigmatizing certain communities. There’s a debate over how to balance warning those at high risk without making them the target of discrimination or violence.

Read more: Where is monkeypox in Michigan? Here’s a map of cases and everything you should know about symptoms

Though monkeypox can be transmitted sexually, it is not a sexually transmitted disease. This global outbreak is the first in which contact during sex appears to be a significant driver in the spread.

Monkeypox is spread through close contact or sharing contaminated items. So far, the majority of cases in this outbreak worldwide are among men who have sex with men. Experts stress it can, and has, spread beyond that population.

Steven Haden is the founder of Envision: You, a Denver-based nonprofit that seeks to close the gaps in behavior health outcomes for LGBTQ+ individuals.

“When you closely associate a public health concern like this with a certain population, it prevents people who are not part of that population from seeking care,” Haden said.

This situation is a prime example of why it’s important to have more representation from the LGBTQ+ community in medicine and public health -- to make sure the desire to avoid stigma doesn’t prevent good information from being shared. And that important health messages don’t inadvertently make certain populations the target of discrimination or violence.

Read: More coverage on monkeypox

About the Author:

Dr. McGeorge can be seen on Local 4 News helping Metro Detroiters with health concerns when he isn't helping save lives in the emergency room at Henry Ford Hospital.