Ashwin Vasan, commissioner for health of New York City, has officially asked the World Health Organization to change the name of monkeypox because it is racist and discriminatory: “It has already happened with AIDS and Covid”.
“Don’t call it monkeypox anymore.” This is the request that arrived directly on the table of the WHO director general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, signed by Ashwin Vasan, health commissioner of New York City where in the last hours the confirmed cases of monkeypox have reached a thousand.
As we read in the document that Vasan himself then shared on his social channels, this “terminology” is “rooted in a racist and painful history for the African American community”, and the risk is to generate discriminatory and racist acts.
In the letter, the commissioner also recalled the negative effects of false information that spread when the AIDS virus appeared and the episodes of racism against the Asian community when the then American President Donald Trump branded Covid-19 as the ” Chinese virus. Continuing to use the term ‘monkeypox’ to describe the current epidemic can rekindle these racist sentiments, especially against blacks and other people of color, as well as against members of LGBTQ + communities, “he wrote.
Anyone can get monkeypox, but since its emergence in Europe and the United States, the virus has mostly spread among men who have sex with other men.
A possible name change to monkeypox had begun to be talked about as early as mid-June, but then no progress was made.
New York is the most affected city in the United States by the virus so far, with 1,092 cases since the outbreak began, accounting for about a quarter of all those registered in the country. Meanwhile, the epidemic is spreading all over the world: at the moment there are over 16 thousand confirmed cases in more than 70 countries, to the point that the WHO on Saturday declared it an “international health emergency”.