New York City Commissioner Ashwin Vasan asked the World Health Organization (WHO) to change the name of the newest public health emergency disease known as “Monkeypox” earlier this week, to something less likely to bring about “painful and racist” memories.
“We have a growing concern for the potentially devastating and stigmatizing effects that the messaging around the ‘monkeypox’ virus can have on these already vulnerable communities,” Vasan’s letter read.
“Therefore, I write to urge you to act immediately on renaming the ‘monkeypox’ virus as the WHO stated they would do during a June 14th press briefing, over 5 weeks ago,” the commissioner continued.
“NYC joins many public health experts and community leaders who have expressed their serious concern about continuing to exclusively use the term ‘monkeypox’ given the stigma it may engender, and the painful and racist history within which terminology like this is rooted for communities of color,” Vasan’s statement explained.
New York City currently has the highest Monkeypox cases in the United States with 1,092 infections thus far, according to The Guardian.
Vasan also drew a comparison between Monkeypox and the HIV epidemic, with regard to the information being disseminated to the public.
“Further, as we are reminded by fierce advocates who served on the front lines as the HIV/AIDS epidemic emerged, early misinformation about the virus led people to believe that it was spread to humans after people in Africa engaged in sexual activity with monkeys,” the letter read.
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“Continuing to use the term ‘monkeypox’ to describe the current outbreak may reignite these traumatic feelings of racism and stigma – particularly for Black people.”
WHO Director-General Tedros Abhanom Ghebreyesus, announced the organization was working with experts to change the name of monkeypox “as soon as possible,” during a June 15 press conference.
The disease has thus far been detected in 75 countries, which has led to more than 16,000 cases, resulting in five deaths, per UN News.
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