In a decision that was reportedly taken following pressure from Washington, the World Health Organization (WHO) is planning to redesignate monkeypox as MPOX to avoid stigmatization.
Citing anonymous sources, Politico says that the renaming of the viral disease, which gained a foothold in the US earlier this year, could be announced as early as Wednesday following the initial agreement to consider suggestions for monkeypox’s new name the WHO made over the summer.
When publicly discussing this year’s outbreak of the disease, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus also acknowledged that stigmatization was a serious issue for the prevention of monkeypox.
The outlet, however, reported that WHO was enticed to act quickly by members of the Biden administration who had threatened unilateral action unless if the international body makes that happen.
Washington argued for months that the virus’ name was deepening stigma, above all among people of color, claiming that the slow movement toward a new designation hampered its vaccination efforts initiated over the summer.
Similar calls for abandoning the virus’ name received upon its discovery in 1958 stemmed from public health experts and LGBT activists since the virus began spreading widely this past spring, stressing that calling the virus monkeypox is imprecise and plays into racist stereotypes about Africa, also noting it is detrimental to the global response to the outbreak.
A group of scientists also emphasized in a joint statement in June that continued reference to, and nomenclature of the virus being African is not only inaccurate but is also discriminatory and stigmatizing in the context of the current global outbreak.
Though the epidemic currently appears to be on the decline, the WHO had recorded almost 80,000 confirmed cases and 50 deaths since the start of the year – as of November – noting that most recorded cases, as their data shows, have happened in a party setting with sexual contact.
While monkeypox is technically not a sexually transmitted infection, the WHO data also shows that it has overwhelmingly affected gay men and, in cases where the HIV status of the patient was known, 38% were HIV-positive.