EDITOR'S NOTE: The Brazos Valley Pride Community Center discusses monkeypox. As the disease appears in U.S. gay and bisexual communities, the local advocacy group worries about the stigma.
BRAZOS COUNTY, Texas — Two people in Brazos County have tested positive for monkeypox so far, according to the Brazos County Health District.
The Center for Disease Control [CDC] notes that this most recent outbreak has most directly impacted gay and bisexual men.
"What I’m afraid of personally is that monkeypox is like AIDS — and it’s going to be assumed to be a gay only sort of disease, even though those are not the facts," said Katrina Dawn Stewart, president of the Pride Community Center, Inc.'s Brazos Valley chapter.
The CDC reports that monkeypox isn’t something that is transmitted just through sex. They note the disease can be spread through a hug or handshake. They say monkeypox patients shouldn’t share items like silverware or towels with other people while the infection is present.
"It is a concern, because it can come from a hug," said Rick Burgess, treasurer for the community center. "And you don’t necessarily know, because some of the sores are small. It’s a matter of touching the right place, and you potentially have the infection."
Stewart and Burgess, local members of the Brazos Valley’s LGBTQ communities, are concerned with not only how people might treat gay men, but how sufferers of monkeypox may be afraid to seek treatment.
“People are afraid to go to health care practitioners and have a fear of treatment based on experiences elsewhere, based on friends that have had negative experiences," Stewart said.
In a recent press conference, Brazos County Health District leaders noted the spread of monkeypox is different than COVID-19, and with the proper measures taken, the spread can be successfully controlled. And as the Brazos Valley awaits its first monkeypox vaccines, practicing precautionary habits like hand washing is key.
"So it’s not just the LGBTQ community that’s impacted by this, and we need to treat everyone the same," Burgess said. "Be cautiously aware of who we’re in contact with, but treat everyone with respect."
To learn more about monkeypox, visit the CDC website here: