LGBT activists demand better attention to monkeypox in Mexico

Groups of men from the LGBT community in Latin America are preparing a statement to the authorities, claiming that sufficient actions have not been implemented to prevent monkeypox while infections continue to increase in homosexual and bisexual men, mainly.

During the Conference on Health, Human Rights and Care for Gay Men in Latin America and the Caribbean, held between August 29 and 31, leaders of different groups of the LGBT community, with the support of the Organization of the United Nations (UN) through UNAIDS and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), decided to prepare the Mexico Declaration on Monkeypox, which is expected to be released this Thursday, September 1.

The problem that the community faces is that “most governments are not implementing forceful actions to prevent it (monkeypox), diagnose it in a timely manner, notify the public, stop it and provide information,” it is explained in a statement from Aids Healthcare Foundation (AHF), a nonprofit organization that provides medications to people living with or affected by HIV/AIDS.

The Mexico Declaration on Monkeypox will be signed by 120 representatives of Latin American organizations from 12 countries.

This initiative was proposed by Doctor Jorge Saavedra, Director of the AHF Institute. The Conference was organized by the Latino Gay Network, UNAIDS, AHF, PAHO; and had the support of HIVOS, Impulse, and the Condesa Specialized Clinic, organizations that are the main signatories of the declaration.

Mexico is not testing all people with monkeypox symptoms

“Some public health services, such as the IMSS (Mexican Social Security Institute), send people with obvious symptoms of this disease home without even having tested them,” said Ricardo Baruch, an activist and public health specialist. This was the same practice with people presenting COVID-19 symptoms.

The organizations point out that there is “a lot of concern” in the particular case of attention to monkeypox in Mexico and its differences with other Latin American countries.

An example is given to Peru, a country that has a quarter of the population that there is in Mexico, and that, despite having detected its first case of monkeypox a month later, already has more than 1,500 diagnosed cases, while Mexico has only 504 according to the latest report from the Ministry of Health.

“This gives us the suspicion that Mexico has a serious problem of access to monkeypox diagnosis,” said the director of AHF.

What should citizens know about stereotypes about monkeypox in the LGBT community?

Dr. Saavedra said in his speech at the conference that “stigma should not be a barrier to not recognizing that this is happening (the predominant transmission in groups of homosexual men and men who have sex with men).”, but the main concern should be that “this epidemic is predominantly affecting gay and bisexual men”.

Therefore, a call was made for the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) to declare monkeypox as a sexually transmitted disease.

Aids Healthcare Foundation (AHF) pointed out that 90 percent of people infected with monkeypox are mainly homosexual or bisexual men, and in Latin America, infections are progressing faster compared to other regions of the world.

How is Jalisco dealing with the monkeypox outbreak?

The Health Department of Jalisco (SSJ) has made no mention of monkeypox on their community outreach through social media, although the state has the most cases in the country, outside of Mexico City.

In the press releases published on the SSJ website, which can only be read if you know where to find them, the SSJ has yet to raise an alert for men who have sex with men, and only mentions people who have multiple sexual partners.

SSJ previously disclosed the location of infections, but that information has been scrubbed from the weekly press releases as cases grew in Puerto Vallarta, an important tourist area for the state.

In Puerto Vallarta, the local social organization for LGBTQ+ health, (SETAC), launched a community action protocol for monkeypox in the municipality of Puerto Vallarta, which includes health promotion and prevention; primary, medical, and psychological care, and referral of possible cases, to fill the gap left by the Jalisco Heath Department’s lack of interest in controlling the spread and presenting information to the public.

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