LGBTQ+ groups for the UK’s major political parties have united to call for urgent Government action to tackle the rapidly rising number of monkeypox cases in the UK to stop the virus becoming endemic in the country.
The joint letter to Secretary of State for Health, Steve Barclay MP, has been signed by the LGBTQ+ groups for the Conservatives, Labour, Liberal Democrats, Greens and Scottish National Party.
There are now more than 2,500 confirmed monkeypox cases in the UK. Almost all of the cases are among gay and bisexual men, which is why the LGBTQ+ groups have felt the need to act.
The letter calls for better coordination and communication to gay and bisexual men, as well as more doses of vaccine to support the targeted vaccination programme.
As the letter explains, sexual health experts estimate that at least 250,000 vaccines are needed to give two doses to 125,000 people most at risk of exposure to monkeypox – but the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has procured just over half the amount.
The groups also bring the additional pressure that assessing, treating and vaccinating people against monkeypox has had on sexual health services to the attention of the Health Secretary – describing the new burden on clinics as “overwhelming”. It goes on to say that this is “exacerbating other health inequalities experienced by LGBTQ+ people in the treatment of STIs and starting on PrEP”.
Sexual health experts, including Terrence Higgins Trust (THT) and the British Association for Sexual Health & HIV, have already warned the Department of Health, NHS England and UKHSA of the impact the monkeypox response is having on sexual health services delivery of HIV prevention, STI testing and contraception.
The letter also calls for Government to “learn the lessons of the Covid-19 pandemic” and ensure no one required to self isolate with monkeypox “is forced to choose between protecting theirs and other people’s health, or affording essentials like food and rent”.
Ceri Smith, Head of Policy at THT, said: “We need urgent political action to get a grip on the UK’s rapidly rising number of monkeypox cases.
“That’s why we’re grateful to the LGBTQ+ groups from the different political parties uniting to call for a public health response that’s proportionate to the size of the problem while gay and bisexual men continue to make up the vast majority of cases.
“We need to see far better coordination, increased vaccine procurement, improved delivery and a cash injection to sexual health services to treat monkeypox that will also reverse the impact the outbreak is already having on STI testing and treatment, PrEP provision and contraception services.”
The LGBT+ Conservatives said: “Many of our members are anxious about monkeypox. We’ve also heard from members who have queued for hours to get their first dose of the vaccine. There is an urgent need for improved coordination, communication and an effort to increase access to doses to ensure that those who are most at risk from monkeypox are provided for and feel safe”.
Matthew Lloyd, Co-chair of LGBT+ Labour, added: “We are very worried that while mass vaccination events are a great way of building confidence that vaccinations are happening they can be a driver of inequality, especially when there is an under supply of jabs. It is time to get improved systems and more purchasing of this much needed vaccine.”