ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — As monkeypox continues to spread across the country, leaders at the Pride Center of the Capital Region are concerned about the stigma messaging behind the disease could spread.
Monkeypox is now a public health emergency. President Biden made the declaration Thursday, allowing more funding for vaccines and resources to the hardest hit areas including New York State.
Local and state leaders are working with organizations like the Pride Center of the Capital Region to provide resources and access to vaccines, which are now available to LGBTQ+ men at clinics across the region.
“We are providing those resources to them as they come in,” Nathanial Gray, Executive Director for the Pride Center of the Capital Region, said. “We are making sure people know how to get tested and vaccinated. I am making sure as I speak to you and everywhere else that folks are aware that the stigma has got to be paid attention to.”
Gray said, while most infections are currently in LGBTQ+ men, the core messaging on the disease needs to change.
“This is a virus that anyone can contract and it’s not sexual in any way,” Gray said. “It’s touching skin which children do on the playground and elderly folks do when they are getting a bath in a nursing home, this is a normal part of our every day experience so to consistently message about gay men or men who have sex with men is dangerous.”
Gray adds the stigma against LGBTQ+ men can lead to furthering the mental health crisis many in the community are facing. He said he wants leaders to pay attention to the stigma and shift their approach to the monkeypox outbreak on risks to the general public.
“Leave LGBTQ messaging to us,” Gray said. “We already do that, we have 20 years of history of messaging to our community that safe sex is the most important thing.”