Regional Asia Pacific Webinar: Monkeypox and Community Readiness
On July 23 2022, the WHO Director-General declared the escalating global monkeypox outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. Globally, over 16,000 cases of monkeypox have been reported from 75 countries. In the Asia Pacific Region, cases of monkeypox have been reported in Australia, India, Thailand and Singapore.
Since the virus is being identified in the men who have sex with men communities (MSM) and became stigmatization, therefore, APCOM in partnership with PEPFAR/USAID/EpiC and supported by WHO and UNAIDS, organized an online regional webinar on 29 September 2022 in order to learn about monkeypox, provide opportunities for the community to ask questions from experts, and to strategize on the community-led response to monkeypox. LGBTQI and key population communities, civil society organizations and other stakeholders, who are interested in learning more about Monkeypox, 150 people joined the online event.
At the beginning of the webinar, Andy Seale (Adviser, Office of the Director Global HIV, viral hepatitis and sexually transmitted infections programmes, WHO) gave an overall information regarding the Monkeypox. He reported that good news is that the cases by MSM and male declined according to the slowing global trend, however, disease knows no border and access to effective vaccines is still an issue.
Regarding international views, Harun Tulunay (HIV, sexual health & mental health advocacy, UK) gave a speech on the topic “Surviving monkeypox” from his own experience. He mentioned that inequality and stigmatization remain a huge problem. Name calling and labelling hurts more than the disease. That’s why language and the usage of words in communication material is important because there is a chance of boosting stigma in some languages. For example, “Don’t let MPX ruin you” may scare people and make misconceptions about the disease, which can bring chaos to the scene.
Chronos Kwok (Assistant Director, MSM Programme & Anonymous Testing Service, Action for AIDS Singapore), also shared the community outreach in Singapore. In the early response, they educated the staff about MPX and how to manage potential cases. As they tried to increase awareness of MPX among MSM, they still had to tackle the public perception that MPX is a “gay disease”. Gathering support from community stakeholders, including MSM business owners, representatives of community groups, health care professionals working with MSM, is the way to overcome the pandemic.
In Thailand, Dr Opass Putcharoen (Director of Thai Red Cross Emerging Infectious Diseases Clinical Center) mentioned that one day after the announcement of MPX as a public health emergency by WHO, monkeypox was under monitoring by the Emergency Operations Center. Thailand elevated screening measures and admitted suspected cases to hospitalize patients until no symptoms and to ensure no risk of transmission, while preparing healthcare staff and materials on-hand. Until today, only 8 cases have been confirmed (6 males and 2 females) in Thailand.
However, there are many gaps to be closed, such as testing gap, knowledge gap, vaccine and treatment inequity, and stigmatization. “It’s time to act. Human monkeypox must not be neglected,” added Dr Opass.
Siripong Srichau (APCOM Campaigns Officer) shared what APCOM has done so far through the testBKK campaign that APCOM also posted the brief, creative and useful information about MPX through our social media platforms. In the future, APCOM will invite key opinion leaders to make short videos to raise awareness and reduce stigmatization against MSM.
Furthermore, Nicky Suwandi (APCOM Knowledge Management & Learning Officer) shared some significant survey results that APCOM had collected from the communities. The result shows that half of them don’t know the resources to start addressing the MPX. Thus, what they expect to see is MPX information available in the region and for minorities, through regional steering committees, monitoring mechanisms, workshops, guidelines and other communication materials in local language etc.
Finally, Dr. Heather-Marie Schmidt (UNAIDS/WHO Regional Advisor (PrEP)) reflected in the webinar that MPX is held back by inequality which can exacerbate this health emergency, so immediate response for MPX is needed to strengthen the system and address underlying drivers of inequality. Furthermore, stigma and discrimination are a true problem for MPX and all diseases, and exacerbated by criminalization of sex work in some countries. For the next step, WHO will take the role to coordinate and provide more technical assistance as well as data community engagement, while strengthening response capacities and increasing resources. More meetings and reviews will be organized to help educate and raise awareness in the local language so everyone understands and ensures risk aversion.
|Welcome & Introductions: HousekeepingOverview of the sessionIntroduction of speakers
|PEPFAR/USAID/EpiC USAID RDMA TBC*
|What do we know so far about Monkeypox
|Andy Seale Adviser, HIV, Viral Hepatitis and Sexually Transmitted Infections Programmes
|Sharing session: Country response (Thailand)
Dr Opass Putcharoen Director of Thai Red Cross Emerging Infectious Diseases Clinical Center Thailand
HIV, Sexual Health & Mental Health Advocate United Kingdom
Chronos Kwok Assistant Director, MSM Programme & Anonymous Testing Service Action for AIDS, Singapore
|Sharing APCOM Experience and Mini Survey Results APCOM efforts in Thailand and the regionAPCOM take part in global informal group organized by WHOAPCOM short community survey on Monkeypox
|Siripong “Arm” Srichau APCOM Nicky Suwandi APCOM
|Reflections on the situations and moving ahead
|Dr Heather-Marie Schmidt Regional Advisor (PrEP) UNAIDS/WHO
|Thank you to the speakers and Close