Dear Mr. Fenton

NMAC logo

Mr. Robert J. Fenton Jr.

National Monkeypox Coordinator
The White House
Washington, DC

Dear Mr. Fenton,

Congratulations on your appointment as the National Monkeypox (MPV) Coordinator. Kudos on the White House announcement on alternative dosing.

There are concerns about implementation. Like you, NMAC will follow the science.

NMAC (formerly National Minority AIDS Council) leads with race to end the HIV epidemic. Thanks to an unrestricted educational grant from Gilead, the agency has put together the moniker This program, like our mission, leads with race to stop MPV. Our work prioritizes MPV vaccine equity and overcoming vaccine hesitancy, particularly for gay men of color, the transgender community, Black women, and sex workers.

Thankfully, Dr. Demetre Daskalakis is on your team. He has our full support. Given the reality that gay and bisexual men, especially Black and Brown gay men, are 98% of people with MPV, there is a critical need to address equity.

Policy Priorities

  1. More MPX Vaccines
  2. Fight for Vaccine Equity
  3. Overcoming Vaccine Hesitancy
  4. Culture Wars

The number one priority is more vaccines. NMAC urges you to quickly overcome any impediments to getting vaccines into arms. While alternative dosing was a good first step, the virus is quickly spreading. Each day, I read the new US case count and worry. Community is watching and losing patience.

Recent data said 63% of people with MPV are people of color. NMAC is concerned that history will repeat itself and this becomes another on a long list of challenges impacting communities that are overwhelmed by too many issues. If COVID taught us anything, there needs to be vaccine equity plans at the start. We cannot be an afterthought.

Given the numbers, will hold-up and tell the stories of Black and Latinx gay and bisexual men. We will also tell stories from the frontlines. Leading our efforts are:

 Daniel Driffin         Damián Cabrera

On Wednesday, our first monkeypox e-newsletter goes out for free to the entire NMAC mailing list. You will get three pieces of email each week which could be annoying, so we ask for your patience. We are still working out the kinks. At some point, we hope MPV will just go away or at least the need for a weekly newsletter will.

Vaccine hesitancy is a challenge when reaching gay men of color, particularly Black and Latinx men. The White House needs to support targeted education and training. General outreach won’t work. While the HIV community has decades reaching these communities, as we’ve seen from PrEP, it has not always been successful. Do not let history repeat itself.

MPV may be used by extremists to say gay men are sick and undeserving. Once again, it all sounds too familiar and impossible. The political, moral, and ethical contradictions abound. Vaccine education programs may require outreach and campaigns that they will find offensive. Let’s not kid ourselves: MPV sits in the middle of the culture wars.

I hope you can visit an LGBTQ clinic. During these times without enough vaccine, your support and work to get them shots is critically needed. As we’ve learned with COVID, we must take care of our heroes on the front lines.

Monkeypox, like HIV, is more than numbers. There already is too much stigma. Sometimes with social media it feels like the early days on steroids. Please come out of the gate fighting MPV stigma. Like HIV stigma, it comes from a place of homophobia and racism. In this political climate, it is particularly dangerous.

Yours in the Struggle,

Paul Kawata

Paul Kawata