A crutch to continue to prejudice’: Montreal’s LGBTQ community fears stigma from monkeypox

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5/20/22

David Hawkins wasn’t alive during the height of the AIDS crisis in the mid-1980s, but decades later, his organization is still working on dispelling harmful myths associated with the disease. “All these years later, it is still seen as being the gay disease, and it’s stuff like that that people still point to as the reason for the blood ban for men who have sex with men to donate blood … We’re still fighting that,” said the executive director of Montreal’s West Island LGBTQ2+ Centre. Now, LGBTQ advocacy groups and experts are concerned about another wave of discrimination hitting the community as several countries, including most recently Canada, are confirming cases of monkeypox, which has so far been identified mainly among men who have had sexual relations with other men. “The risk and the fear that this is going to be used to stigmatize against the LGBTQ2+ community further, I think that that fear is very real for a lot of people, and I think it’s very well-founded in history,” said Hawkins. Five cases of monkeypox have been confirmed in Quebec — the first such cases in the country — and 20 cases in the province are under investigation. “We’re still recovering from the stigma that came with HIV and AIDS as a community … This risk is also potentially there for monkeypox if that continues to be a trend,” he said.

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