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Monkeypox Cases Driven ‘Underground’ by Anti-Gay Stigma in India

  • Patients may not get tested if they fear homophobia, violence
  • WHO chief warns discrimination makes outbreak harder to stop
A technician inside a molecular laboratory facility set up to test for monkeypox at the King Institute in Chennai, earlier in July. 
A technician inside a molecular laboratory facility set up to test for monkeypox at the King Institute in Chennai, earlier in July. Photographer: Arun Sankar/AFP/Getty Images

About two months before India officially reported its first cases of monkeypox, Mumbai doctor Ishwar Gilada urged two of his patients to get tested. Both -- a gay man and a male who identifies as bisexual -- refused, even though their sexual partners caught the disease.

Gilada, who opened India’s first AIDS clinic in 1986, understood the challenges that lie ahead. In parts of the world where LGBTQ people face stigma and bias, patients are reluctant to seek testing or treatment for a disease that has recently afflicted gay and bisexual men. They didn’t want to be the first monkeypox cases in India, Gilada recalled. “They are going underground.”