Monkeypox response: Rationality must prevail
As this viral outbreak may have a sexual component of exposure risk, we mustn’t let ourselves down as we did with HIV-AIDS. Keep self-harming falsehoods and homophobia down instead
What took economists a big nudge from their behavioural colleagues to accept, that the most rational and elegant of curves drawn by theory frequently get warped by real-world impulses, epidemiologists who watched HIV-AIDS unfold have long known. Four decades ago, an ‘infodemic’ of falsehood coupled with sexual prejudice hobbled our fight against that deadly viral outbreak at its most vital stage, its very start, bending its trend the wrong way. With monkeypox now a global concern, as declared by the World Health Organization (WHO), we cannot afford a failure redux. As a pathogen, the bug that causes this illness is not nearly as catchy as the covid virus, far less deadly than HIV, and its effect is more like a mild version of smallpox. None of these threats is alike, except that anyone can catch it. Covid contrasts can be pinned on a recency bias, smallpox has overlaps of symptoms and vaccines, but the way monkeypox recalls early AIDS is no less worthy of top-level attention. This it does in two ways: too little known by way of what its science says, and too close an apparent link of cases with gay sexuality. In an age of online infodemics, a sordid slice of 80s history must not get to repeat, be it as a tragedy or farce.