U.S. public health officials make same mistakes with monkeypox they made with HIV/AIDS: opinion

LOS ANGELES, Aug. 9 (Xinhua) -- Public health officials in the United States make the same mistakes with monkeypox they made during the HIV/AIDS pandemic, said an opinion piece published on the website of The Washington Post on Monday.

Rae Lewis-Thornton, the author of the article and an AIDS activist who has been living with HIV for 38 years and author of "Unprotected: A Memoir," pointed out that as HIV/AIDS surged in previous decades, the government scrambled to address the strange illness that seemed to afflict mostly men who had sex with men.

"Yes, the vast majority of cases so far are among men who have sex with men. But history has taught me that no singular community is exclusively at risk for a disease," said Lewis-Thornton.

The near-exclusive emphasis on gay men regarding HIV/AIDS set up the public health response for failure in two respects. First, it heaped stigma, shame and blame on gay men like a truckload of garbage dumping at a waste site. Second, it left other groups - especially Black and Brown women - with a false sense of security, according to the author.

"By the time we learned that many men who had sex with men also had sex with women, thousands of women had contracted the virus. Black women made up the majority of AIDS cases among women in the United States. I was one of them," said the author, noting that "while there is still much we don't know about monkeypox, unlike HIV/AIDS, it is not a sexually transmitted disease."

"We know from history how the medical communities' emphasis on the health of gay men made it easier for the general public to believe that a 'scary' disease was someone else's problem. 'I already see it happening. People want to believe that it is someone else's disease until it happens to them," the author added.

"And the sad truth is that while humans discriminate against people, viruses do not," she concluded.

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