New York City asks to rename monkeypox, a name deemed stigmatizing

New York City asked the World Health Organization (WHO) on Tuesday, July 26, to rename monkeypox – “monkeypox” in English – a name deemed stigmatizing and which risks pushing patients to isolate themselves. rather than seeking care.

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New York City Health Commissioner Ashwin Vasan speaks July 17 in a Brooklyn high school gymnasium turned into a monkeypox vaccination site. Photo: AFP/VNA/CVN

“We are increasingly concerned about the potentially devastating and stigmatizing effects that messaging around the ‘monkeypox’ virus can have on (of the) already vulnerable communities”, writes New York City Health Commissioner Ashwin Vasan in a letter to WHO Director General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

The latter had also mentioned this possible change in mid-June, which Mr. Vasan recalls in his letter.

According to the Health Commissioner, this “terminology” is also “rooted in a racist and painful history for communities of color”.

In his letter, he recalls the negative effects of false information during the appearance of the AIDS virus (HIV) or of the racism suffered by Asian communities after the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Continuing to use the term ‘monkey pox’ to describe the current outbreak may rekindle these traumatic feelings of racism and stigma – especially for black people and other people of color, as well as members of LGBTQIA+ communities, and they may avoid using vital health care services for this reason”adds Ashwin Vasan.

New York is the most affected city in the United States in terms of the number of cases, with 1,092 contaminations detected since the start of the epidemic.