GLAAD examines the impact of HIV, COVID and MPV in a new report
WASHINGTON — Racial disparities persist in response to the monkeypox epidemic, as the number of black and Latino men contracting the disease is now disproportionately high, but this inequity is gaining new attention as the total number of cases declines.
Although new cases in the overall monkeypox outbreak are steadily declining after numbers peaked this summer, a growing share of the continuing numbers belong to men who have sex with minority men. racial.
The latest figures show the racial disparity dramatically. During the week of Sept. 4, black people accounted for 41% of cases and Latinos 27%, while 26% were white and 3% Asian, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control.
Blacks among new monkeypox cases were much smaller when the numbers were first reported in early summer. For example, the percentage was 18 on June 22 and as low as 8% on June 8. The percentage of Latinos, as with whites, has declined, although they are still overrepresented in new cases in the context of their demographics. in the general American population.
The disproportionate impact of new cases of monkeypox on racial minorities has not gone unnoticed. As a result, health officials are trying to shift the focus of the monkeypox epidemic from gay and bisexual men and other men who have sex with men more broadly and more towards men of color who are sexual minorities. .
Sean Cahill, director of health policy research at the Fenway Institute in Boston, said in an interview with the Washington Blade that racial disparities in the monkeypox epidemic are largely the result of black men and Latinos are “less likely to get vaccinated than their proportion”. Population.”
“So they’re more vulnerable to monkeypox and they’re less likely to get vaccinated,” Cahill said. “So this is a real issue, and it’s really critical that you know that federal, state, and local partners are coming together and really centering equity in the response and trying to reduce the burden on black and Latino gay men, but also to increase access to the vaccine to ensure that people can protect themselves.
The Fenway Institute released a plan last week calling for a more effective federal response to monkeypox, accusing the US government of failing to effectively mobilize existing public health infrastructure to help communities affected by the virus. The paper outlines a range of possible actions, but also concludes that marginalized communities have difficulty accessing vaccines and treatments, which are concentrated in well-resourced institutions and less accessible to communities of color.
Cahill, asked to characterize whether the numbers demonstrating racial disparity have changed over time or remained stagnant, said any trends are difficult to determine because data on racial demographics is only recently available and “it’s data very imperfect”.
“I don’t know if it’s getting worse or better, the disproportionate ethnic-racial impact,” Cahill said. “But it’s definitely there, and it doesn’t seem to be going away.”
The Biden administration, while touting the 20% drop in total cases in the monkeypox epidemic, has also begun to recognize the continued disproportionate impact of monkeypox on black and Latino men who have sex with men. .
Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, said on a conference call with reporters that the US government was approaching the decline with “cautious optimism”.
“Over the past few weeks, we’ve also seen the racial and ethnic makeup of this epidemic shift,” Walensky said. “While monkeypox cases were first seen primarily in non-Hispanic white males, last week among the cases for which we have race and ethnicity data, non-Hispanic black males accounted for 38 % of cases, Latino or Hispanic men accounted for 25% of cases, and non-Hispanic white men accounted for 26% of cases.
Among the efforts undertaken by the Biden administration is a pilot program of vaccines reserved for major events and fairness. Monkeypox vaccines have been given to more than 10,000 people, including at Southern Decadence in New Orleans, Atlanta Black Gay Pride, Charlotte Pride, Boise Pride Festival, and Oakland Pride and Pridefest.
Dr. Demetre Daskalakis, the face of LGBTQ outreach for the Biden administration in monkeypox efforts and deputy director of the White House Monkeypox Task Force, was among those promoting of the pilot program in equity efforts during a conference call with reporters.
“Health departments will use their local experience and community connection to identify hyperlocal strategies to improve access to vaccines for communities of color, especially those overrepresented in this outbreak,” Daskalakis said.
David Johns, executive director of the National Black Justice Coalition, said racial disparities in the monkeypox epidemic are consistent with other public health trends.
“There were so many opportunities to learn ways to address health inequities before they developed,” Johns said. “The fact that black people continue to be disproportionately impacted by this new health epidemic is further evidence of how white supremacy works and the importance of democratized responses to crises.”
Biden health officials, asked by the Washington Blade during the virtual meeting why the administration’s stated goal of fairness in handling the monkeypox outbreak is not producing racial equity among new cases , reaffirmed their efforts and spoke of the difficulty in achieving this objective.
Walensky, who has also played a leading role in the Biden administration in battling the coronavirus pandemic, said racial disparities in the monkeypox outbreak “is not uncommon for many infectious diseases, although unfortunately,” and defended the U.S. government’s approach to monkeypox.
“And it’s exactly for those reasons that we started these pilot projects before we even see the changes in the data, as is often the case in infectious diseases that we have a more vulnerable population – racial and ethnic minorities — who are most impacted later on,” Walensky added. “And so, we anticipated that. We went into these activities to address that issue right now.
Daskalakis, following up in defense of the Biden administration’s fairness efforts, said he “has spoken to vendors on the ground as well as promoters at these events who have noted that this effort is really unprecedented in terms of deep penetration of these communities”.
“I think our whole commitment in the administration is to really focus our efforts on fairness to solve the problems that we see. It’s a tough effort and it’s a challenge,” added Daskalakis. “And I think the way to address equity is intentional, and that’s an example of intentional work to address equity.”
With the racial disparity in the ongoing monkeypox outbreak, health watchers say more effort is needed to reach marginalized communities to ensure they have access to public messaging and vaccinations.
Cahill said that while people of color in urban areas go to LGBTQ centers to receive health care, many also receive care at other facilities that are not LGBTQ-specific, such as as emergency rooms and urgent care clinics.
“I think providing training and technical assistance to these health care organizations on how to provide affirming care to bisexual men could be an important approach and could make people more likely to disclose a homosexual behavior in these contexts,” Cahill said.