Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Kenneth Fox

The Government has to meet the challenge posed by rising levels of monkeypox in Ireland  “head on”, according to HIV Ireland.

It comes following the World Health Organisation (WHO) designation of monkeypox as “a public health emergency of international concern.”

HIV Ireland board member and consultant in infectious diseases at St Vincent’s University Hospital, prof Paddy Mallon said: “That the WHO has now designated monkeypox as a public health emergency of international concern underlines the seriousness with which this current widespread outbreak should be viewed.”

“In Ireland, key priorities must include increasing awareness within the community in general about the signs and symptoms of monkeypox, accurate information on how it can be transmitted, and expanding access to testing and increasing availability of vaccination, which remain key components to the control and hopefully eradication of this infection.”

Ahead of the first cases of monkeypox being identified in Ireland, the MPOWER Programme at HIV Ireland collaborated with Man2Man to mount a national awareness raising campaign targeting the Gay, Bisexual and other Men-who-have-sex-with-men (GBMSM) community.

The campaign aims to increase awareness of the symptoms of monkeypox, develop informative and non-stigmatising messaging, and to provide guidance on accessing testing and care.

It is a collaboration between community-based organisations working with GBMSM, the HSE Sexual Health and Crisis Pregnancy Programme, and Health Protection Surveillance Centre.

International practice

“The approach by the campaign team has facilitated a swift and multidisciplinary response to date,” said Stephen O’Hare, executive director of HIV Ireland.

“It is particularly encouraging that this approach has been cited by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) as representing the best international practice.”

“As the crisis unfolds it will be imperative that more resources are made available to meet ‘head on’ the challenge posed by this public health emergency.”

They said the MPOWER team has trained peer volunteers to deliver direct outreach on monkeypox, at venues frequented by the GBMSM community including bars, clubs, sex on premises venues and other social spaces.

Speaking ahead of a GBMSM community meeting on Wednesday, July 27th, Mr Adam Shanley, HIV Ireland’s MPOWER programme manager said: “We have done a lot of heavy lifting informing gay and bisexual men about monkeypox, however there are tools known to be effective in preventing onward transmission that we do not yet have access to.

“As gay and bisexual men, we have a long history and strong legacy of banding together in times of adversity, and our community discussion is an example of that – we are mobilising our peers in the face of this new challenge.”

Mr Shaley said to contain monkepox it requires an immediate coordinated vaccination programme that prioritises those in the community most at risk of acquiring the virus.

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