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A group of 116 LGBTQ+, health and religious advocacy organizations in a letter to Congress and the White House called on elected officials to approve additional funding to combat the nation’s monkeypox outbreak.
The virus continues to disproportionately affect men who have sex with men, as well as Black and Latino people.
The groups in the letter also ask that elected leaders embrace alternative names for monkeypox over concerns that it stigmatizes the Black and LGBTQ+ communities.
A coalition of more than 100 LGBTQ+ advocacy groups are calling on Congress and the Biden administration to pump billions of dollars into efforts to curb the spread of the monkeypox virus, which continues to disproportionately affect gay and bisexual men.
In a letter sent this week, 116 LGBTQ+, health and religious advocacy organizations urged Congress to approve a request made by the White House earlier this month that an additional $4.5 billion be granted to respond to the monkeypox virus outbreak.
“We urge the administration to request the full amount necessary to combat this problem rather than a piecemeal approach that would fall short of the real community health needs,” reads the letter, authored by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR).
The groups added that the administration should provide a more substantive breakdown of how it plans to use the money, asking that a minimum of $100 million be allocated to sexual health clinics. Money must also be made available for no-cost testing, treatment, contact tracing, data collection and training and hiring of medical professionals – especially in communities with high transmission rates, the groups wrote.
In the meantime, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) should redirect existing funds to help contain the outbreak until Congress acts, the letter’s signatories said, adding that the White House should also throw its weight behind proposed legislation that would guarantee free monkeypox testing.
In a statement on Thursday, HRC Interim President Joni Madison said the organizations are “disappointed” that Republicans in Congress refused to include funding for monkeypox treatment or testing in its continuing resolution (CR) – stopgap legislation to avoid a government shutdown that sustains federal funding at current levels.
“Government entities must do better to prioritize reaching BIPOC gay, bi+, and transgender and non-binary individuals, especially those individuals living with HIV,” she said.
Madison added that the racial disparities in treatment and vaccine distribution “highlight the need to change a deeply flawed health care system that historically best serves those with resources and connections.”
In a July briefing, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said Black and Latino people account for 64 percent of all monkeypox cases in the U.S., despite making up just 32 percent of the population. Nearly 26,000 confirmed monkeypox cases have been reported in the U.S. since May, mostly among men who have sex with men.
Groups that signed onto the HRC and NCLR letter also called on elected leaders to acknowledge the “racist connotations” tied to the virus’ name. White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre in August said the administration is listening to concerns that the name of the virus is hurting marginalized communities, but noted that renaming it “is not something we decide on.”
The World Health Organization in August announced plans to rename monkeypox altogether amid mounting concerns that its moniker was intensifying stigma against Black people and the LGBTQ+ community.
The HRC and NCLR letter asks that additional attention also be paid to combating misinformation around the virus and its transmission, noting that education initiatives should be provided by “culturally competent educators operating from a stigma-free, scientifically accurate approach.”