Jonathan Van Ness shares his thoughts on the US government’s “botched response” to the monkeypox outbreak.
In a sharp TIME essay published on Monday, the 35-year-old man weird eye star recalled the time when the nation reported its first official case in May, calling for government response.
“Watching the government’s botched response to monkeypox has been surreal, and in many ways I believe it has been fueled by homophobia and transphobia,” he said, adding, “When an epidemic primarily affects men who have sex with men some of our elected lawmakers will have no incentive to act they think it won’t affect their constituents which is obviously spoiled because people’s lives are in jeopardy gambling and that there are gay people in all 50 states.
The reality of the virus hit Van Ness when a friend was forced to cancel a trip to New Orleans, where Van Ness is recording weird eye, after being exposed to monkeypox.
“I started calling every political contact I have, sounding the alarm about how quickly cases were increasing and pleading with officials to take the virus more seriously.”
Comparing the government’s response to monkeypox to that of the authorities’ deadly slow response to the AIDS epidemic, Van Ness said he was “disappointed” with the politicians who were in power then and now. today “like President [Joe] Biden and speaker [Nancy] Pelosi.”
“Once again, we are seeing too little action being taken until the situation spirals out of control. If nothing changes, we will continue to experience failures like this response, which has been plagued by too few tries, lack of access to treatment, insufficient supply of vaccinesand ambiguous advice,” he said.
Van Ness then called on officials for not taking “more proactive steps” to release an easily accessible vaccine after cases “started to rise in June.”
“Why haven’t we seen this administration prioritize the rapid purchase of monkeypox vaccines?” he asked, pointing out how, like at the start of the AIDS epidemic, many seem to view –– and dismiss –– the virus as something that only affects the LGBTQ+ community.
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The star noted that monkeypox being declared a public health emergency “was a step in the right direction – but it was a day late and a dollar short” before sharing a joke he often tells on his stand-up shows.
“It was so funny to see straight people being shocked by the government’s response during COVID-19, because we’re like, ‘Honey, it’s Tuesday,'” said Van Ness, who found out he was positive 10 years ago. “You thought the government was going to come and help you? We are used to this kind of inaction. Monkeypox is like: same day, different virus.”
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The star added: “I think tragedy, hope, despair and resilience can all co-exist. But we have to act.”
Stating that “everyone should care about monkeypox” even if they are not directly affected by it, “because we should care about each other”, Van Ness reminded fans that other Diseases, such as HIV, still exist, along with the stereotypes surrounding them and the limits of proper health care.
“It’s not just a story of monkeypox. It’s a story of how we constantly fail people on the sidelines. We must be bold in what we are prepared to witness – and no one should have been prepared to witness the spread of this outbreak over the past two months,” he wrote.