Monkeypox Stigma Leads to Low Demand for Testing, Experts Say

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Few people are getting tested for monkeypox even though the number of confirmed cases continue to climb and long lines remain at vaccine clinics in the Bay Area.

The low demand for monkeypox testing has led to new concerns some communities are being singled out, and as a result are not getting enough help.

"It's hard for patients to come in and say, 'Hey I want a monkeypox test' because by that statement I am saying I did X and Y activities," said Dr. Peter Chin-Hong, an infectious disease expert at UCSF. "And they are worried about potential judgement."

Gabrielle Antolovich with the Billy DeFrank LGBTQ+ Community Center in San Jose, said the focus should be on fighting the virus, not stigmatizing people.

"What I don't want to see happen is that monkeypox becomes yet another exercise to act out on hate," Antolovich said.

The perceived stigma attached to monkeypox may also impact some patients' ability to get blood work.

"We have had reports of phlebotomists being nervous about drawing blood because of the risk of monkeypox," Chin-Hong said. "It's HIV all over again."

NBC Bay Area reached out to Labcorp, the nation's largest blood testing company. The company sent a statement saying its workers are not trained or equipped to swab lesions to test for monkeypox, but "Labcorp phlebotomists are trained to collect blood from patients who may have different communicable diseases, including but not limited to HIV, hepatitis, COVID-19 and now monkeypox."

Antolovich said despite possible health care challenges people may face, her message to the LGBTQ community is clear.

"Don't let fear stop you from getting a vaccination," Antolovich said.

Matt Ford was not able to get a vaccine for monkeypox, and managed symptoms of the infection with pain medicines. Now that he is recovered after a three-week bout with the virus, Ford opened up about his experience in an interview with LX News' Ashley Holt.
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