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

New York City calls for renaming monkeypox, a name deemed stigmatizing


New York City on Tuesday asked the World Health Organization (WHO) to rename monkeypox monkeypox in English – a name considered stigmatizing and which risks pushing patients to isolate themselves rather than seek care. 

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

The latter had also mentioned this possible change in mid-June, which Mr. Vasan 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 outbreak of the AIDS virus (HIV) or the racism suffered by Asian communities after the COVID-19 pandemic, which US President Donald Trump called the “Chinese virus”.

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“The fact of continuing to use the term of “ monkeypox” to describe the current outbreak may rekindle these traumatic feelings of racism and stigma especially for black people and other people of color, and members of LGBTQIA+ communities, and they may avoid to seek vital health care services for this reason,” adds Ashwin Vasan.

Anyone can get monkeypox, but since it first appeared in Europe and the United States, the virus spreads overwhelmingly among men who have sex es with men.

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.