This work is hampered by false, often homophobic theories that spread on all major social media platforms, according to research conducted for the MIT Technology Review by the Center for the Suppression of Digital Hate. These false claims make it difficult to convince the public that monkeypox can affect anyone and could deter people from reporting potential infections.
Some of this misinformation overlaps with known pandemic conspiracy theories, which attack Bill Gates and “global elites” or which suggests that the virus was developed in the laboratory. But much of it is directly homophobic and attempts to blame the outbreak for LGBTQ + communities. Some Twitter posts claim that countries where anti-LGBTQ + rhetoric is the illegal areas where monkeypox sufferers are greatest, or call the virus “God’s revenge”. In a video posted on Twitter last month, Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia falsely claimed that “monkeypox is really transmitted mostly only by gay sex.”
Homophobic comments on articles about monkey goddesses that have been liked thousands of times on Facebook are allowed to stay online, and one specific article that caused hundreds of horrified reactions has been shared more than 40,000 times via Telegram.
The YouTube video on the channel with 1.12 million subscribers includes false claims that monkeypox can be avoided by simply going to a gay orgy, being bitten by a rodent or taking a prairie dog as a pet. It has been viewed more than 178,000 times. Another video, from a channel with 294,000 subscribers, claims that women get monkeypox by coming into “contact with a man who probably has some other contact with another man”; it has been viewed close to 30,000 times. Facebook, Twitter and YouTube did not respond to requests for comment in time for posting.
Such stigma has real consequences – infected people who do not want to talk about their sex life are less likely to report their symptoms, which makes it difficult to monitor new cases and effectively control the disease.
In reality, the virus can affect anyone and is unaware of people’s sexual identities or activities. Misinformation framing monkeypox as exclusively for men who have sex with men could convince people that they are at lower risk of infection and spread than they actually are, says Julia Brainard, a senior fellow at the University of East Anglia who works on modeling public threats health. “A lot of people will think, ‘That doesn’t apply to me,'” she says.
None of this is helped by the fact that we are still not sure of all the ways in which monkeypox could be transmitted or how it is currently spreading. We know it spreads through close contact with an infected person or animal, but the WHO said it was also investigating reports that the virus was present in human semen, suggesting it could also be sexually transmitted, although sequencing data have so far provided no evidence that monkeypox works. as sexually transmitted diseases. It is also not known which animal acts as a natural reservoir for monkeypox (a host that maintains the virus in the wild), although the WHO suspects that rodents.
Although it is still unclear how and where the epidemic began, the WHO believes that outside some West and Central African countries where the virus is regularly found, it has begun to spread from person to person, primarily among men who have sex with men after two rave. in Spain and Belgium. While typical monkeypox symptoms include swollen lymph nodes followed by lesions on the face, hands and feet, many people affected by the latest epidemic show fewer lesions developing on the hands, anus, mouth and genitals. This difference is probably related to the nature of the contact.