LGBTIQ+ Group Calls for Calm Amid Mpox Outbreak


With more than a dozen confirmed cases in South Africa, an LGBTIQ+ group says that stigma and marginalisation have no role in tackling the disease.

On Wednesday, the Department of Health confirmed a total of 16 cases of mpox since the latest outbreak of the disease in May. All of those affected are men aged between 23 and 43 years. It is believed that several identify as men who have sex with men (MSM).

The latest patients include a 40-year-old man from Ladysmith in KwaZulu-Natal who presented with mpox-like symptoms, including a rash all over his body. He did not seek medical attention and passed away at home, marking the third fatality to date.

The department urged anyone who experiences mpox-like symptoms to visit their nearest healthcare facility for screening and diagnosis, rather than self-diagnosing and using over-the-counter medication. It noted that mpox is preventable and manageable, and treatment for both mild and severe cases is available.

Fear of LGBTIQ+ Marginalisation and Stigma

Meanwhile, there is growing concern within the LGBTIQ+ community that the outbreak may lead to further marginalisation.

“Why are we, as queer people, in this now? Why are we at the centre of this?” asked one individual on Instagram, while another expressed worry that it is “another reason to push homophobia.”

“It is dangerous linking it to homosexuality or bisexuality in the current political climate, where in some countries, homosexuality is considered a crime,” warned a third person.

Addressing these fears, OUT LGBT Well-being said in a statement, “We have seen the damaging effects of stigma and discrimination before, notably during the early days of the HIV/AIDS epidemic when gay and bisexual men were unfairly shamed and ostracised. We must ensure this does not happen again.”

The organisation pointed out that mpox can affect anyone, regardless of their sexual orientation. It noted that one reason cases of mpox have been reported among MSM may be due to their proactive health-seeking behaviour, which ultimately benefits everyone.

 Rational and Informed Discussions

OUT urged MSM, LGBTIQ+ communities, and broader society to educate themselves about mpox and its symptoms, to stay vigilant, take necessary precautions, but not to panic.

“We also call for rational and informed discussions on media platforms, avoiding the blame or shaming of any community. Let’s prioritise understanding and support over fear and discrimination,” said the group.

Mpox often presents with a painful rash on the hands, feet, chest, and other parts of the body, including the genitals and anus. It can be spread by close contact, including sex, with an infected person.

The disease usually resolves by itself but can be severe or fatal in rare cases, especially among those who are immunocompromised, such as people living with HIV who are not on treatment.

For more information on mpox, its symptoms, and preventive measures, refer to reliable medical sources, including the Engage Men’s Health Mpox Factsheet or the NICD website.

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