New study finds inadequate response to mpox outbreak

Author: Donald Padgett

A new study of gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men (GBMSM) in the United Kingdom who were diagnosed with mpox (the disease formerly known as monkeypox) found they often encountered difficulties accessing medical testing and treatment. The participants also felt a stigma attached to the disease and reported their diagnoses resulted in negative reactions from members of both the straight and LGBTQ+ communities.

The study entitled “Experiences of mpox illness and case management among cis and trans gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men in England: a qualitative study” used in-depth interviews with 22 GBMSM who contracted mpox and four stakeholders from various clinical and communication organizations. It was published in eClinicalMedicine with the interviews conducted March through July of 2023.

The U.K. study follows the release of a report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office highlighting significant areas for improvement in the federal government’s response to the 2022 outbreak and led out U.S. Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-NY) to introduce the Coordinated Agency Response Enhancement (CARE) Act, to overhaul federal public health emergency management.

One participant in the U.K. study (identified as a cisgender mixed Black and white bisexual man, aged 18 to 25) compared the inadequate treatment he received to the treatment a friend also suffering from mpox received from a different clinic in London.

“They gave him medications and whatnot,” the man reported. “My clinic didn’t give me any medication. They were like just isolate and you should get better.”

He politely summarized his experience by saying, “They weren’t, bless them, they were not helpful at all.”

Another man living with HIV recalled his medical providers did not adequately account for the severity of his condition, and that the misdiagnosis led to what the report describes as a “catastrophic outcome” resulting in extensive surgical debridement and months of hospitalization.

“This man felt that had staff recognized the severity of his condition and not discharged him that he would not have experienced such severe and life-changing complications,” the study said of the man identified as a cisgender white gay man over the age of 46.

The study also found a stigma attached to the illness, and that media coverage exacerbated their emotional suffering.

“Media coverage drawing on homophobic stereotypes around sex between men contributed to feelings of stigma and shame,” the report said.

One man, a cisgender white gay man over the age of 46 who suffered from serious illness reported he was forced to wait outside the hospital surrounded by guards.

“They told reception that security had to protect, to cover me and not let me move.,” the man reported. “I had to sit on one seat outside in the open with two security standing around me.”

The study was published on March 12, 2024, by lead researcher T. Charles Witzel.

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Original Article on The Advocate
Author: Donald Padgett

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