Remember the ignorance and fear of the AIDS epidemic back in the 80s?
Men were mysteriously dying of a horrific wasting disease at a prodigious rate. Nobody really knew what was going on, but of course it was quickly seized upon as a "Gay" disease. In fact, one of the early acronyms was "GRID", or Gay Related Immune Deficiency, as it affected homosexual men almost exclusively at the time.
Thanks to the ignorance and indifference of the United States, powered and guided by President Reagan, somewhere around 700,000 people have died since the beginning of the AIDS epidemic. It's no COVID, but even today about 13,000 people die every year from this disease.
For a long time though, it was a death sentence. If you had AIDS you were going to die. It was pretty much that simple. Palliative care is only there to make you comfortable; there was no real cure for a long time.
Even today, the drugs available force the disease into a remission. They do not eliminate the virus entirely, and you are never truly "cured" as we understand it. And of course it's America - the treatment isn't cheap
- and not all insurances will cover it.
But - remember the fear and paranoia? Our gay friends were scapegoated, ostracized, and shunned from society. Those that would help them also felt that stigma. And of course the media, religious right, and ignorant politicians had a field day by demonizing the victims and their caregivers, and spreading horrible lies and propaganda about the entire affair.
Without irony, I'll use the quote from Mr. Arnold of Jurassic Park: "Hold on to your butts
Monkeypox is spreading, and it is spreading much faster than it usually does.
This month, more than 140 confirmed and suspected cases have been detected in a dozen countries across Europe, North America, and Oceania. The first was diagnosed in the UK on May 7, and the number of cases that have been confirmed in that country has quickly doubled in the past two days, from nine infections on May 18 to 20 infections on May 20.
Other monkeypox cases have recently been confirmed scattered across the US, Australia, Spain, Italy, Germany, Portugal, and Sweden — the list of countries grows by the day.
One of the troubling things that disease experts have noticed with this outbreak is that the patients don't all have a clear link to one another. They haven't all traveled to countries where the disease is endemic, like the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nigeria, or Cameroon, nor have they all been in contact with people who recently traveled to the parts of west and central Africa where animals like rodents harbor this virus.
But one thing that public health experts have noticed is that most of the infected patients — in fact all but one of the patients whose sex has been revealed so far — are men.
This doesn't mean we are dealing with a new brand of monkeypox — one that only infects males, or one that is sexually transmitted between men who have sex with men. It's still early days for disease investigators, who are tracking down exactly how genetically related these monkeypox cases may be, and how they might be spreading from person to person. For now, experts are divided on whether we should give much weight to the fact that most of the monkeypox patients diagnosed outside Africa recently have been men.
Public health experts and virologists say that the focus on gay men getting monkeypox now is "sadly reminiscent" of some of the initial reporting about HIV and AIDS 40 years ago.
"Monkeypox is not a gay disease, and neither are any other infectious diseases," virus expert and physician Dr. Boghuma Kabisen Titanji, public health researcher Keletso Makofane, and another public health expert who goes by Dr. Neurofourier on Twitter wrote on the PLOS blog "Speaking of Medicine and Health" on Thursday.
"It is unfortunate that this still needs to be said, highlighting how little we have learned from previous outbreaks."
The World Health Organization also chimed in on Friday, pointing out in a statement that anyone who closely interacts with an infectious person can be at risk of catching monkeypox.
"This includes health workers, household members and sexual partners," the WHO said. "Stigmatizing groups of people because of a disease is never acceptable. It can be a barrier to ending an outbreak as it may prevent people from seeking care, and lead to undetected spread."
What's really alarming about this one - it's noted at the end of the story I linked. Most of us will be susceptible to this pox because the last smallpox vaccines were given in the United States about 1972. Most of the population is unvaccinated because there wasn't really a need after smallpox was eradicated.
Can you say "Here we go again?"