Public Health Officials Say You Can’t Expect People To Change Behavior To Prevent Monkeypox

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Laurel Duggan Social Issues and Culture Reporter
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Monkeypox was declared a public health emergency Thursday, but multiple public health officials have expressed a hesitancy to impose restrictions or discourage sex in interviews and social media posts.

Public health authorities imposed mask mandates, vaccine requirements and school and business closures to slow the spread of COVID-19. Some officials now argue that people who are at high risk for contracting monkeypox shouldn’t be asked to make behavioral changes to slow the spread of monkeypox.

Monkeypox is spread primarily through sex and 97% of U.S. monkeypox patients are men who have sex with men, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“We continue to monitor Monkeypox virus (MPV) activity, while also recognizing the stigma surrounding the disease, Umair A. Shah, Washington Secretary of Health said. “MPV is a HUMAN disease. It is not singular to any one community. Anyone can get it. We will not tolerate misinformation, bias or hate surrounding this virus.” 

“Approaching it from a purely [sexually transmitted infection] standpoint doesn’t really meet the challenge,” Zandt Bryan, the sexual health and prevention program manager for the Washington State Department of Health, told The Washington Post. He said expecting people to have less sex is unfair and places too much of a burden on individuals to prevent monkeypox infections. (RELATED: LGBT Nonprofit Leader Locked Out Of Bank Accounts, Flees To El Salvador Amid Investigation)

Democratic California State Sen. Scott Wiener, who is involved in San Francisco’s monkeypox response, agued against discouraging people from having sex. He has perviously advocated for a nationwide mask mandate and mandatory COVID-19 vaccines for school children and government employees

“If people want to have sex, they are going to have sex,” he told The Washington Post. “I know people who normally go to sex parties who will not. People will make their own decisions about their own risk levels.”

Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, emphasized the importance of avoiding anything that may stigmatize the gay community in a July 26 NPR interview.

Patrick Gallahue, a spokesman for the New York City health department, also argued against encouraging gay men to have less sex.

“For decades, the LGBTQ+ community has had their sex lives dissected, prescribed, and proscribed in myriad ways, mostly by heterosexual and cis people,” Gallahue told The Washington Post. “Our guidance and advice are grounded in science and history — including the scientific reviews of how poorly abstinence-only guidance has historically performed in preventing transmission of STIs — with this disgraceful legacy in mind.”

Don Weiss, director of surveillance for the NYC health department’s Bureau of Communicable Disease, was reassigned to a different department after he publicly criticized the department’s handling of monkeypox. 

“We seem paralyzed by the fear of stigmatizing this disease while we totally ignore the epidemiology. If we had an outbreak associated with bowling, would we not warn people to stop bowling?” Weiss wrote in a June 22 email, according to The Washington Post.

The CDC is revising its monkeypox guidance, which says only people who have monkeypox symptoms should avoid sex CDC official Demetre Daskalakis told The Washington Post. He said people should temporarily consider reducing sexual partners.

The CDC, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and the Washington State Department of Health did not respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s requests for comment.

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