What is it about?

In 2022, there was a global outbreak of an infection called mpox (formerly known as "monkeypox"), that primarily affected gay, bisexual, and other sexual minority men. At the time, there were concerns that the ways the media and public health authorities were communicating about the virus might stigmatize sexual minority men by forging associations between them and the virus. We surveyed sexual minority men during the outbreak and found great variability in how stigmatized they felt. We also found that sexual minority men who felt closer to the queer community experienced the stigma more strongly, and that those who experienced the stigma more strongly also reported worse wellbeing.

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Why is it important?

This work is an important historical document of sexual minority men's experiences during a unique and challenging time in that community's history. It also shows that members of stigmatized groups can feel the way that stigma responds to events in the outside world in real time, in this case by feeling that stigma against them was becoming stronger due to the mpox outbreak. This means that in the future, public health officials and the media need to develop ways to communicate important health information without contributing to stigma.


When an infectious outbreak disproportionately affects a particular marginalized group, like mpox did for sexual minority men, we run the risk of contributing to the stigma that groups faces when we communicate information about the outbreak to the public in an unnuanced way. For example, we can contribute to inaccurate stereotypes about the group being "unclean" or "irresponsible," and we can engender feelings of disgust. But that doesn't mean that we shouldn't communicate information about public health issues to the public; that information can be really important! Figuring out how to balance these two things, and how to communicate public health information in a way that is both informative and sensitive is an important and major challenge for the public health community and for the media.

Joel Le Forestier
University of Pittsburgh

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Experiences of stigma among sexual minority men during the 2022 global mpox outbreak., Psychology of Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity, June 2024, American Psychological Association (APA),
DOI: 10.1037/sgd0000739.
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