Health Secretary ‘must take more action on monkeypox or it will become endemic’

LGBT+ groups from across the political aisle have joined forces to demand the government step up efforts to tackle monkeypox or risk it becoming ‘endemic’ in the UK.

The US on Thursday declared a public health emergency over the virus – which affects gay and bisexual men and other men who have sex with men (GBMSM) in most cases observed so far – following the World Health Organization’s call for it last month a global emergency.

UK health officials have called for calm, but now Westminster residents have urged Health Secretary Steve Barclay to take action as monkeypox is causing “real anxiety and fear” in queer communities.

“We are united as LGBT+ groups from all political parties in asking that the government treat the monkeypox outbreak as a public health emergency,” the statement, written by the Conservative-Labour-Liberal Democrat LGBT+ groups, said , Green Party and Scottish National Party signed letter to Mr Barclay said.

“We cannot afford to let monkeypox become endemic in Britain. Fortunately, we now have the resources needed to stop this outbreak and prevent further health risks. We ask you to do this urgently.”

The letter, which was also signed by sexual health charities including the Terrence Higgins Trust, said the government must prioritize communication and vaccination.

“We need clear, non-stigmatizing messages that GBMSM deliver directly about the symptoms of monkeypox and what to do if you suspect you have the virus, to inform and reassure people (instead of the current one broadcast-to-all approach with constant mention of GBMSM). ‘ said the authors, who also included Tories’ Luke Black and Labour’s Matthew Lloyd.

“Messaging must reach communities at high risk of contracting monkeypox through targeted messaging in apps, online and in the queer media.

“Vaccinating those most at risk of monkeypox must be a priority if we are to have any chance of preventing the virus from becoming endemic in the UK,” they added.

“We are very concerned that while mass immunization events are a great way to build confidence that immunization is being done, they can lead to inequalities, particularly when there is a shortage of immunization,” Lloyd said separately.

“It’s time to get upgraded systems and make more purchases of this much-needed vaccine.”

The Terrence Higgins Trust also called for improvements in vaccination efforts.

The charity’s political director, Ceri Smith, said: “We urgently need policy action to get a grip on the rapidly rising number of monkeypox cases in the UK.

“So we are grateful to the LGBT+ groups across the various political parties who have come together to call for a public health response commensurate with the magnitude of the problem, while gay and bisexual men continue to account for the vast majority of cases.

“We need far better coordination, increased vaccine procurement, improved delivery and a cash injection for sexual health services to treat monkeypox that will also reverse the impact the outbreak is already having on STI testing and treatment, PrEP care and contraceptive services.”

The NHS announced late last month that it was stepping up its monkeypox vaccination program in London as more stocks of a vaccine became available.

Vaccination experts have recommended that gay and bisexual men at higher risk of monkeypox be offered the smallpox vaccine Imvanex. Health Secretary ‘must take more action on monkeypox or it will become endemic’

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