Clinicians must fight stigma around monkeypox, infectious disease physician says

Many patients diagnosed with human monkeypox virus are facing a large amount of stigma associated with the disease, which must be eliminated, Jason Zucker, MD, an infectious diseases specialist at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center in New York City, said during an Aug. 5 media briefing.

Dr. Zucker, who is also an assistant professor of medicine at Columbia Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, said he's been surprised to see the amount of stigma and shame associated with the diagnosis. 

"I frequently diagnose patients with HIV and sexually transmitted infections, and have learned to address those concerns," he said. "But there's clearly an even heavier stigma around this disease. Even patients with mild disease have been taking it very hard."

Patients diagnosed with the virus must also isolate for up to four weeks, which can prove challenging from a mental health perspective, he added.

"It's important to make sure that we're all cognizant of this, that we all work together to reduce stigma, and that we offer patients mental health and other supportive resources after their diagnosis," he said. "Eliminating this stigma and supporting patients is the only way to ensure that patients present for care and receive the care that they really need."

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