LGBTQ Groups In Spain Fear Monkeypox Stigma

With one of the biggest gay pride celebrations in Europe approaching, Spain’s LGBTQ community is concerned that monkeypox outbreaks on the continent could lead to a rise in homophobic sentiment based on poor awareness of the disease.

Spanish health authorities said on Friday that there are now 98 confirmed cases of the disease in the country, the highest number in Europe. The total includes a woman, the Madrid region said. The World Health Organization (WHO) has reported almost 200 cases of monkeypox in more than 20 countries where outbreaks of the unusual disease do not usually occur.

Health authorities have focused their investigations on links between a gay pride event in the Canary Islands attended by 80,000 people weeks ago and cases linked to a sauna in Madrid.

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But some people, particularly gay and bisexual men, think there is some homophobic hysteria in the public’s reaction to the rare outbreak outside of Africa, where the disease is endemic.

Most of the known cases in Europe have been among men who have sex with men, according to health authorities in Britain, Spain, Germany and Portugal. A WHO adviser said the outbreak was most likely sparked by sexual activity at two recent mass events in Europe.

The gay pride celebration in Madrid takes place in July. The event is expected to draw large crowds, unlike the previous two years, which were curtailed due to coronavirus pandemic restrictions. Organizers say the city’s last gay pride celebration before the pandemic drew some 1.6 million people, though police put the figure at around 400,000.

“Pride is a massive party, it is a very demanding demonstration where many people come together,” said Mario Blázquez, coordinator of health programs for the COGAM group in Madrid.

Blázquez fears that the celebrations could be in danger due to excessive restrictions caused in part by prejudice and in part by fear of a new public health emergency on top of the still persistent COVID-19 pandemic.

“We do not know what is going to happen, not at the level of virus transmission, but what legal measures are going to be taken, how they are going to be created. That later the stigma also generates legal provisions that are sometimes discriminatory and illegal, that I don’t know what will happen then, “he added, in statements to The Associated Press.

But beyond the march. Blázquez fears that society is making the same mistake it made at the start of the HIV/AIDS crisis in the 1980s, when by focusing on gay men it lost sight of its transmission in the general population.

“It is a disease that anyone in the population can acquire,” warned Blázquez. “What is happening is that we are facing an epidemic outbreak that unfortunately once again has affected us LGTBQ people and especially gay and bisexual men. But It happens a bit like in the first cases of HIV”.

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