Church must do better on monkeypox than HIV, say church leaders – Baptist News Global

In a social media meme, happy young woman and man walk down wedding aisle with cheering friends. The title reads: “How to Avoid Getting Monkey Pox.”

On Twitter, U.S. Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene posted a video of CDC Director Rochelle Walensky on monkeypox and wrote, “If monkeypox is a sexually transmitted disease, why do children get it?

The Georgian first-term MP is no stranger to outlandish and provocative statements. And the implication of his tweet was to reinforce a trope of conservative evangelical Republicans that gay people are pedophiles who “groom” young children as their victims.

Although there is substantial research to debunk Greene’s insinuation that homosexuals are pedophiles – most pedophiles are not homosexual, and few homosexuals abuse children – his is a message carried forcefully in the ongoing culture wars over families, marriage and schools.

Similarly, the meme suggesting that heterosexual marriage is the way to prevent the spread of monkeypox assumes that it is a sexually transmitted disease that only members of the LGBTQ community are susceptible to.

“Research, not hysteria”

For Nicky Bell, it’s a lot like the early days of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, when condemnation stood in the way of preventing and curing disease. What heterosexuals considered a disease affecting only homosexuals then began to spread to heterosexual women, children and men.

Nicki Bell

“As a retired nurse practitioner, I had the privilege of volunteering at the AIDS Resource Center in Dallas for four years,” said Bell, a layperson from Wilshire Baptist Church in Dallas. “Looking back on the AIDS crisis and now that we are battling the new global monkeypox virus, I can’t help but see some comparisons.”

For example, the two viruses “originating from monkeys in Africa, have been slow to receive government recognition and resources and are chaotic in nature. Gay men are at high risk of infection. They may well be blamed for the spread of infection as was the case with AIDS.

That kind of blame is both misplaced and deadly, Bell said. “Especially during the early years of AIDS, public understanding of the facts about the virus was often incorrect or, at best, misleading. There was a lack of knowledge as well as personal and preconceived perceptions about race, gender and sexuality. Ostracism and isolation resulted.

She has a warning for today: “Are we going to repeat the mistakes made with the AIDS response in our response to monkeypox? Hopefully we will learn from our history. Let’s go with a slogan from a 1983 poster that said of AIDS: “We need research, not hysteria”.

Tell the truth

Rich Havard, an ordained Baptist minister living in Chicago, agrees. Talking about monkeypox as a “gay disease” or associating it with pedophilia is simply wrong, he said.

“Words matter. Whether it’s a poorly worded headline or vicious political rhetoric, we must keep all public discourse at a higher level. It’s possible to be candid that monkeypox primarily affects men who have sex with men while saying out loud that this disease has nothing to do with being gay.

Rich Havard

“At a time when anti-queer beliefs are gaining traction through everything from book bans to draconian laws, we need sources of information to be accurate, politicians to use their words wisely, and prophets call both groups to the upper lane when they fail.”

And the church has a role to play, he added.

“The church has a sacred duty to care for the body and soul, especially the bodies and souls of LGBTQ people whom the church has consistently slandered. For the body, the church must become practical: educate people about monkey pox, helping people get vaccinated and caring for people who contract the disease For the soul, the church must fight shame with loving care and use its voice to offer faithful corrections to the wickedness of LGBTQ people,” he advised.

Religious leaders, speak

Additionally, queer religious leaders like him may have important roles to play, Havard said. “I have chosen to be very open about getting vaccinated myself, and have also worked to spread the word to others about vaccination opportunities. I hope these small actions help to other people to feel empowered to get vaccinated too, without the weight of stigma.

While queer people are “frightened and frustrated”, they are also creative, he added. “We are the descendants of a community that has opened up paths where blockages have existed for generations.”

Today, these blockages too often come from government and public health officials, who are moving at a “freezing pace to respond in a meaningful way.” Faced with little help, “queer people are doing what we have always done – creating our own ways forward. For example, most people I know who are vaccinated learned about vaccination possibilities from an open source Google document created by a queer person who wanted to support their community when government support was minimal. The government had to catch up on how the queer community was already taking care of each other. But this is nothing new. »

“Queer people are doing what we’ve always done – creating our own voices.”

There is also a racial and socio-economic angle to how monkeypox is already being treated, he warned. “The dismal public health response to monkeypox has prioritized white gay men who have more money and access than other queer people, especially the queer and trans communities of BIPOC. We need to push the government not only to respond more effectively, but also more fairly. »

What is monkey pox?

The educational association Vaccinate your family offers this simple definition of monkeypox: “Monkeypox is a rare disease caused by infection with the monkeypox virus. It is related to the viruses that cause smallpox and cowpox, but not chicken pox. Despite the name “monkeypox”, the source of the disease is unknown. The first human case of monkeypox was recorded in 1970, and monkeypox has been reported in relatively low numbers on a continuous basis since then in some countries. Monkeypox is more benign than smallpox and is rarely fatal.

Currently, the virus “primarily affects people who have reported having close and sustained physical contact with others who have monkeypox. While many of those affected by this outbreak are men who have sex with men, all anyone who has been in close contact with someone with monkeypox can get the disease.

While the White House declared monkeypox a public health emergency on August 4, it remains harder to contract than COVID-19, according to the CDC.

“Monkeypox is not easily transmitted between people; however, anyone in close contact with someone with monkeypox can catch it and should take steps to protect themselves,” the CDC website advises. “People who do not show symptoms of monkeypox cannot transmit the virus to others.”

“People who do not show symptoms of monkeypox cannot transmit the virus to others.”

This appears to be a key difference between monkeypox and COVID-19. With COVID, individuals are often highly contagious before showing visible symptoms of the disease, allowing it to spread unnoticed. With monkeypox, transmission occurs through visible skin lesions or through people who have a fever or other physical symptoms.

The present situation

Reporting on the White House’s declaration of a public health emergency, CNN explained, “Since the first US case of monkeypox was identified in mid-May, more than 6,600 probable or confirmed cases have been detected in the United States. Cases have been identified in every state except Montana and Wyoming.

U.S. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Robert Califf told reporters Aug. 4 that the country was at a “critical inflection point,” prompting the FDA to consider ways to provide more vaccines to more people faster. Currently, available vaccines have been prioritized for those deemed most at risk.

“The goal has always been to vaccinate as many people as possible,” Califf said.

There is, however, an interesting wrinkle to the question of vaccination against monkeypox. According to CDCpeople who have already been vaccinated against smallpox should have some level of protection against monkeypox. How much or how long the protection lasts is not yet understood.

In the United States, routine vaccination against smallpox stopped in 1972, after the disease was declared eradicated.

Jerry B. Hatch