British LGBTQ+ groups across a spectrum of political parties wrote to the UK’s Health and Social Care Secretary Steve Barclay in August 2022 to demand urgent action against monkeypox. The letter stated that the UKHSA “has procured just over half” the required quantity of doses for 125,000 people.
Unless action is taken, the authors are concerned that monkeypox will become “endemic in the UK”, presenting a serious health risk. It would also “exacerbate the health inequalities already experience by gay and bisexual men and other men who have sex with men” they stated.
The letter was co-ordinated by the Terrence Higgins Trust, a UK-based sexual health charity. Ceri Smith, head of policy at the trust, identified the detrimental effects of the outbreak on other sexual health services, including STI testing and treatment, as well as contraceptive services. It is estimated that “up to 30% of sexual health appointments have been displaced” due to the pressure applied to the health service by monkeypox.
The UKHSA suggested in early August that there were “early signs that the outbreak is plateauing”. However, the UK has one of the highest number of cases across the world, and vaccine delivery is being hindered. The doses of the vaccine that have already been procured are currently being delivered “in batches” to individuals at “higher risk”.
The Department of Health and Social Care insisted that thousands of vaccines have already been administered and that the NHS is “working to rapidly invite those at greatest risk”. Partners such as the NHS and UKHSA are working together to “share targeted, non-stigmatising communications with the LGBTQ+ community”. This comes amidst viral debates on whether the virus should be classified an STI, and how messaging should be delivered to the public to protect vulnerable communities without further placing them at risk of discrimination or stigmatisation.
Further to efforts to support sexual health services, the Department of Health and Social Care has stated that it will provide “more than £3.4 billion through the Public Health Grant”. This will enable local authorities to invest in “essential frontline sexual health services”.
To participate in the monkeypox workshop at the World Vaccine Congress in Barcelona in 2022 follow this link to secure tickets.