A person arrives to receive a monkey vaccine at Northwell Health Immediate Care Center in Fire Island-Cherry Grove, New York, U.S., July 15, 2022. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz/File Photo

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CHICAGO/LONDON, July 18 (Reuters) – Hospitals leading the monkey response are already out of cash, leaving the United States and the UK ill-equipped to deal with the first global health crisis since the COVID-19 pandemic.

Infectious disease experts say medical clinics – which provide private travel and treatment – are best placed to diagnose and treat gonorrhea, which mainly affects men who have sex with men.

Yet such programs are doing so largely without additional funding despite years of economic neglect. There is a lot of funding for health care around the world, but experts agree that this sector is underfunded.

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This has hampered the monkey response and diverted resources needed to slow the rise in sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), health experts in the UK and the United States told Reuters.

This lack of resources could lead to the spread of monkeys, he said. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the epidemic has reached 63 countries.

“This is a gap and a weakness in our public health system that the monkey has revealed,” Dr. Meg Doherty, director of the WHO Global HIV, Hepatitis and STIs Programme, said in an email.

“Even in high-income countries, health care costs around the world are falling or not being covered,” he said.

Although chimps are sexually transmitted, the virus can infect anyone who comes in contact with pus-filled sores, body fluids, respiratory droplets or dirty clothing.

Hospital staff should take extra time to clean exam rooms and buy personal protective equipment. When added to low staffing, a problem exacerbated by the COVID pandemic, appointments can be difficult to find. Testing resources in the United States are also limited.

Monkeypox has been endemic in parts of Africa for years, but since the beginning of May, the virus has been spreading rapidly in other countries, especially among gay and bisexual men, who often have tumors in the stomach and anus that doctors may be confused with herpes or syphilis. Of the 11,500 confirmed cases worldwide, 1,469 are in the United States and 1,856 are in the UK, according to Reuters. read more

In Spain, which has 2,447 cases – the most in the world – patients are seen in hospitals and clinics. Local health officials said they added more testing soon after it began and health officials were not stressed.


Data from the UK charity the Health Foundation shows that England’s sex-related budget has been cut by 14% over the six years ending in 2022.

In the United States, funding for health care and research has declined, said David Harvey, director of the National Coalition of STD Directors (NCSD).

“Monkeypox has shed a lot of light on this issue. To put it simply, the STD field has been underfunded for 20 to 30 years,” said Harvey, whose group has requested $100 million to end the monkeypox crisis.

Federal funding for STD programs has improved over the past two decades — $168.5 million in 2003 vs $152.5 million in 2022 — a 40% drop in inflation, according to NCSD. State and local businesses also declined, even as STD rates rose sharply, according to a 2021 report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine.

A survey of NCSD membership released on June 12 found that 42.7% of US medical facilities have access to diagnostic tests, and less than 20% have tubes suitable for taking monkey samples to clinical labs.

With limited providers and access points, hospitals must triage patients, prioritizing those with pain or rashes or suspected rabies. This has left asymptomatic patients and those in need of further treatment without care.

Harun Tulunay, 35, a health care worker who is HIV positive and was recently hospitalized with monkeypox in London, knows of friends whose sex time has been delayed or impossible “because they (hospitals) are too busy with monkeys.”

He was not surprised, as he had faced time-consuming experiments when he was found.

“We’re seeing big hospitals,” he said. “If suddenly we have 5,000 cases, what happens?”

Last week, a coalition of sex/HIV organizations in the UK called for urgent financial support, seeking £51 million ($60 million) for sexual support to “live and eradicate monkeys” as some hospitals said they had fallen sharply on essential services.

Part of the story is that funding for HIV and other STDs varies widely, especially in the United States.

“There has been a lot of money invested in HIV, which is appropriate, but still, sexually transmitted diseases have been rare,” said Dr. Matt Golden, director of an HIV/STD clinic serving Seattle and King County, Washington. His clinic has diagnosed half of the monkeys in the area and provided vaccinations and medical guidance.

Experts in both countries agreed that monkeypox was a way to raise money for sexual health. “It’s time to take action,” NCSD’s Harvey said.

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Reporting by Julie Steenhuysen and Jennifer Rigby; Additional reporting by Christina Thykjaer in Madrid; Edited by Caroline Humer, Bill Berkrot and Daniel Wallis

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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