GENEVA (AFP) - The United Nations' Aids agency on Sunday (May 22) called some reporting on the monkeypox virus racist and homophobic, warning of exacerbating stigma and undermining the response to the growing outbreak.
UNAids said "a significant proportion" of recent monkeypox cases have been identified among gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men.
But transmission is most likely via close physical contact with a monkeypox sufferer and could affect anyone, it added, saying some portrayals of Africans and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people "reinforce homophobic and racist stereotypes and exacerbate stigma".
As at May 21, the World Health Organisation received reports of 92 laboratory-confirmed monkeypox cases and 28 suspected cases from 12 countries where the disease is not endemic, including several European nations, the United States, Australia and Canada.
"Stigma and blame undermine trust and capacity to respond effectively during outbreaks like this one," said UNAids deputy executive director Matthew Kavanagh.
"Experience shows that stigmatising rhetoric can quickly disable evidence-based response by stoking cycles of fear, driving people away from health services, impeding efforts to identify cases, and encouraging ineffective, punitive measures."
Monkeypox symptoms include fever, muscle aches, swollen lymph nodes, chills, exhaustion and a chickenpox-like rash on the hands and face.
No treatment exists, but the symptoms usually clear up after two to four weeks. The disease is considered endemic in 11 African nations.