Story at a glance
- Gilead Sciences on Tuesday announced it is partnering with a group of LGBTQ+ rights organizations to launch a public education campaign against monkeypox disinformation.
- The coalition will also develop a public policy response to the outbreak.
- Since May, nearly 9,000 cases of monkeypox have been recorded in the U.S., afflicting mostly men who have sex with men.
Gilead Sciences is partnering with a coalition of LGBTQ+ rights organizations to combat monkeypox disinformation, the biopharmaceutical company announced Tuesday, pledging $5 million in global grant money to fund a national public education program and other initiatives focused on curbing the spread of both the disease and harmful or misleading information about it.
Since May, nearly 9,000 cases of monkeypox have been recorded in the U.S., afflicting mostly men who have sex with men. According to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 99 percent of monkeypox cases reported thus far have occurred in men, 94 percent of whom have had recent male-to-male sexual or “close intimate” contact.
A recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that 41 percent of men diagnosed with monkeypox between April and June were living with HIV.
But while monkeypox does spread through close or skin-to-skin contact, it is not a sexually transmitted disease. Public health officials have warned that, perhaps even more dangerous than the spread of monkeypox itself, is the rapid spread of the false claim that the disease is exclusive to the LGBTQ+ community and spread only through sexual contact.
Harmful and stigmatizing rhetoric around monkeypox is likely to dissuade people from seeking treatment, allowing monkeypox to spread at an unchecked pace.
On Tuesday, Gilead said it would work with national LGBTQ+ advocacy groups including GLAAD, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), The National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC), the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) and the National Minority AIDS Council (NMAC) to fund a public education and vaccine hesitancy communications campaign.
Public education efforts will include the creation and dissemination of videos, graphics and other information resources focused on monkeypox vaccines, as well as prevention and treatments, Gilead said Tuesday in a news release. Those resources will be distributed to media, community centers and LGBTQ+ event spaces and venues across the country.
The national coalition will also help develop an effective public policy response to the outbreak, recently declared a public health emergency by the Biden administration.
Gilead on Tuesday added that it would fund a global emergency fund, providing grants of up to $50,000 to existing organizations in regions with active monkeypox outbreaks. Funds may be used to cover expenses including community mobilization, HIV testing and essential safety materials.
Leaders of LGBTQ+ rights groups said the coalition was integral to adequately address the evolving monkeypox landscape and combat disinformation around how it spreads.
“As we saw with HIV, COVID-19, and now [monkeypox], disinformation continues to challenge the LGBTQ+ community,” Sarah Kate Ellis, president and chief executive of GLAAD, said Tuesday in a statement. “When communities receive accurate, timely information, they are empowered to take appropriate action, leading to long-lasting, positive health outcomes.”
Joni Madison, the interim president of the HRC, said the LGBTQ+ community — as well as communities of color, which are also disproportionately affected — is witnessing “a concerning amount of misinformation and confusion.”
“That misinformation is especially harmful to [Black, Indigenous, and people of color] communities who historically are sidelined when it comes to equitable access to care and treatment,” she said. “Over the past several weeks, we’ve also seen the LGBTQ+ community doing what we’ve always had to do: caring and advocating for each other. In the same vein, we look forward to working together with Gilead and other partner organizations to combat the stigma that prevents people from seeking the care they need.”