New York City Health Commissioner Ashwin Vasan demanded Tuesday that the World Health Organization rename the monkeypox virus because of the “devastating and stigmatizing effects” the name could have on “vulnerable communities.”
In an open letter, Vasan asked the WHO to follow through on its June decision to rebrand the virus, saying: “We have a growing concern for the potentially devastating and stigmatizing effects that the messaging around the ‘monkeypox’ virus can have on already vulnerable communities.”
- “Continuing to use the term ‘monkeypox’ to describe the current outbreak may reignite these traumatic feelings of racism and stigma — particularly for Black people and other people of color, as well as members of the LGBTQIA+ communities, and it is possible that they may avoid engaging in vital health care services because of it,” he wrote. “Words can save lives or put them at further risk.”
- Vasan suggested the U.N. agency instead call the virus, which was first reported in Africa and has primarily infected gay men, MPV or hMPXV.
- The WHO declared Saturday that the outbreak of monkeypox is a global health emergency.
Last month, a group of over 30 international scientists called for a monkeypox name change, writing in a letter that “continued reference to, and nomenclature of this virus being African is not only inaccurate but is also discriminatory and stigmatizing.”
- In May, the U.N. AIDS Agency issued a statement denouncing some media reports that it said “reinforce homophobic and racist stereotypes and exacerbate stigma.”