Blog Stigmatized Gay Men May Continue Suffering From Mpox Outbreak In Congo.

Stigmatized Gay Men May Continue Suffering From Mpox Outbreak In Congo.

In the midst of Congo’s largest mpox outbreak, scientists raise concerns about the exacerbation of the situation due to discrimination against gay and bisexual men in the region (Source: NBC News).

The World Health Organization’s November report revealed a significant shift as mpox, or monkeypox, was documented to be transmitted via sex in Congo for the first time, diverging from past occurrences where the virus primarily affected those in contact with infected animals.

Mpox has lingered in central and west Africa for decades, but the revelation in 2022 that it spreads through sexual contact marked a pivotal development.

Alarmingly, a majority of the approximately 91,000 people infected in about 100 countries that year were identified as gay or bisexual men.

In Africa, the reluctance to report symptoms poses a risk of driving the outbreak underground, warns Dimie Ogoina, an infectious diseases specialist at the Niger Delta University in Nigeria.

The World Health Organization identified the initial sexually transmitted cases of the more severe type of mpox in Congo last spring, following the arrival of a Belgian resident who disclosed engaging in same-sex relations.

Subsequently, five others with sexual contact contracted the virus. Ogoina, along with colleagues, had previously reported in 2019 that mpox might be spreading through sexual transmission, emphasizing the underestimated potential in Africa.

Challenges in monitoring hinder efforts to estimate the extent of sexually transmitted mpox cases. Despite gaps in data, it is noted that a significant portion of mpox cases in Nigeria involves individuals with no known contact with animals.

In Congo, where approximately 13,350 suspected cases have been reported with 607 deaths by the end of November, only about 10% of cases have been confirmed by laboratories.

The prevalence of sexual transmission remains unclear, with 70% of cases affecting children under 15.

WHO officials, during a recent assessment trip to Congo, discovered a lack of awareness among health workers regarding the sexual transmission of mpox, leading to missed cases.

As the outbreak unfolds, addressing stigma against gay and bisexual men becomes crucial in preventing further complications and fostering a more inclusive and effective response to the public health crisis.

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