New York City is pushing for the World Health Organization to change the “monkeypox” virus’s name because of its harmful and stigmatizing consequences.
What is the background?
The Director-General of the WHO, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, announced last month that his organization would renounce the name “monkeypox” owing to its racist connotation.
However, six weeks later, the WHO has yet to make good on its promise.
What is NYC saying?
The commissioner of the NY City Dept. of Health and Mental Hygiene, Dr. Ashwin Vasan, called on Tedros to fulfill his campaign promise and stop using “monkeypox” terminology immediately.
“Given the stigma it may instill and the painful and racist history from which words like this are rooted for people of color, NYC has joined many public health specialists and community leaders in commending CDC’s decision to avoid using the term ‘monkeypox’ in all future communications,” wrote Vasan.
In fact, according to Vasan, “inaccurate information” about monkeypox is endangering black people and the LGBT community.
“People thought the virus was transmitted to humans after people in Africa had sex with monkeys, because of early misinformation. For decades, this sort of false messaging caused incalculable damage and stigma.”
According to the CDC, “The term “monkeypox” continues to be used in this outbreak, and it may reignite feelings of racism and stigma — especially for Black people and others who identify as persons of color, LGBTQIA+ individuals, or members of other minority groups – which could cause them to avoid participating in critical health care services.”
Rather than “monkeypox,” the WHO should use more official designations such as “hMPXV” or “MPV.”
According to Dr. Vasan, if the WHO and other health organizations do not change their terminology, people who acquire monkeypox — a virus that is primarily spread among gay communities — will be subjected to the same kinds of violence as Asian people were during the early days of the COVID-19 epidemic.
“The WHO must act quickly before things get out of hand,” Vasan stated.
Despite a slew of news reports claiming that monkeypox may become the next epidemic, there have only been about 20,000 confirmed cases in the world.
In the United States, fewer than 4,000 infections have been confirmed.
Nonetheless, the World Health Organization has declared monkeypox a worldwide public health emergency.