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‘I felt like I was dirty’: experiences of gay men diagnosed with mpox


Jim Allen:

Aidsmap article in full:

In Brief:

--- Quote ---A recent study found that men diagnosed with mpox, clinicians and community stakeholders believe that the government's perceived inaction towards the illness was due to its association with stigmatised sexual minorities. This systemic failure was often compared to the initial response to the AIDS crisis.

With the exception of an Australian study, there has been limited qualitative research on the patient experience of mpox. To better understand the social and clinical support needs of people with mpox, researchers from University College London conducted interviews with 22 gay and bisexual men who were diagnosed with monkeypox in England in 2022. The researchers who conducted the interviews were also cisgender gay men.

During the 2022 outbreak, HIV-negative gay and bisexual men who had little experience with stigmatising illnesses found their mpox diagnosis to be particularly traumatic and a personally threatening experience. They often required additional support beyond what was available. However, men living with HIV seemed to handle the stigma better, drawing on resilience from past experiences with HIV.

Mpox was associated with significant feelings of stigma, particularly due to homophobic narratives that linked promiscuity with illness and disease. Some men were also discriminated against by sexual contacts, online, and in healthcare settings. All men who had contact with non-specialist hospital services (such as Accident and Emergency) after receiving an mpox diagnosis reported some degree of enacted stigma from staff, usually related to infection control measures.

The lack of cultural competence in some health services that catered to gay and bisexual men resulted in stigmatisation and, at times, distress. This highlights the importance of involving members of affected communities in co-producing, planning and delivering care – including contact tracing, where stigma is likely to be a significant barrier to engagement.

“This should be done continuously from the outset of outbreaks and be accompanied by appropriate funding, especially for community-based organisations who often face financial precarity,” the authors conclude.
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