Those who remember the beginnings of the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s will recall it was nearly impossible to have a conversation about prevention and treatment because of the stigma and the often false preconceived notions of people who were very uncomfortable with the topic.
Healthcare professionals are confronting similar challenges today, as they work to educate at-risk populations about monkeypox — and its vaccine.
Gilead Sciences and ViiV Healthcare have awarded grants totalling $100,000 to West Virginia’s Community Education Group for both monkeypox vaccination and education efforts among LGBTQ individuals in Appalachia. CEG will develop and distribute materials and hold educational meetings with the hopes of reducing barriers to discussing the virus, which has so far been spread mainly by gay and bisexual men, but can infect anyone.
“One of the things that we realize with monkeypox is that we were asking people to have a conversation with a population of folks that they may not normally engage with,” CEG President and founder A. Toni Young said. “And many of them want to have this conversation but just simply didn’t know how to.”
Perhaps with the help of this grant funding we can get a jump on reducing the harm done by this virus. Young is right to hope the support provided by CEG will help “folks actually feel safe and free to access the care and services at our county health departments.”
As is the case with most of the challenges we face, education is the key. Perhaps CEG’s efforts will be the start of a conversation that not only enlightens, but helps put a stop to this outbreak.