The monkeypox (renamed mpox by the World Health Organization) outbreak took the world by storm in early May of 2022 on the heels of the COVID-19 pandemic. The AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) was among the first public health organizations to sound the alarm on mpox, notably found at a higher rate among men who have sex with men (MSM), bringing attention to the outbreak in June of 2022. After the World Health Organization reported viral DNA found in the semen of a handful of mpox patients in Italy and Germany, AHF urged the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to promote condom use.
To further spread awareness for mpox and raise caution to at-risk communities, AHF held multiple press teleconferences. These teleconferences informed media outlets of the rapidly increasing mpox cases in Los Angeles County and the extremely limited vaccine doses available nationwide. During the conferences, AHF called on the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health to ramp up public education on the virus and its prevention. Part of AHF’s plea to the Department of Public Health included a 6-point plan to address the mpox outbreak.
Mpox Response: AHF’s 6-Point Plan for the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health
- The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health should conduct twice-weekly public briefings outlining the number of new cases and where they are occurring.
- Warnings to the gay and bisexual male population should be launched by DPH online, in newspapers and in outdoor advertising advising men to watch for symptoms; avoid group sexual situations; consult a doctor if you have symptoms indicative of mpox, and isolate if you are diagnosed.
- Require signs to be posted in commercial sex venues and via banner or other ads on hookup applications.
- Lobby the federal government to supply vaccines on an emergency basis.
- Regularly engage community partners to assist the Department of Public Health in prevention, testing, vaccination and treatment of mpox.
- Engage universities to initiate studies to determine the changed characteristics of mpox in the current pandemic.
Following these pleas to public health officials, and in conjunction with the L.A. Blade and Washington Blade, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation co-sponsored two town halls–one in West Hollywood, CA and the second in Washington, D.C. Expert panels discussed the emerging mpox crisis, the state of understanding, vaccination efforts, treatment, prevention and advocacy.
These town halls were a way to give worried and uninformed community members a chance to ask all of their questions regarding the mpox outbreak. The West Hollywood panel included epidemiologists from UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, L.A. County Department of Public Health, a recovered patient, prevention experts and LGBTQ community clinic representatives and prevention advocates. In addition, AHF’s Senior Director of Public Health, Alexander Goncalvez, presented the AIDS Healthcare Foundation’s 6-point plan before representatives of the L.A. County Department of Public Health.
In addition to delivering up-to-date information to the public as quickly and as frequently as possible, AHF offered vaccines available to its clients and the community as soon as they were available. Because mpox was spreading rapidly in the MSM community and among people with multiple sexual partners, immediate access to the vaccine was of extreme importance for these groups. AHF rose to the occasion making its network of wellness centers, which provide care to a large MSM community, available to the L.A. County Department of Public Health to help administer mpox vaccines quickly and efficiently.
During yet another unthinkable public health crisis, AHF not only provided a blueprint for how to handle infectious disease outbreaks but has shown that it champions the most at-risk communities. Part of being a health care and advocacy organization means speaking out against big pharma greed that hurts patients and calling out public health officials for slow and inadequate responses to public health emergencies. The AIDS Healthcare Foundation responded swiftly, and that’s largely why mpox information reached the people who needed resources the most.
Asha Doucet is Content Marketing Specialist at AHF. For questions, please email email@example.com.