Queer Eye’s Jonathan Van Ness blasts US government for ‘botching’ monkeypox response

Jonathan Van Ness says US government has 'botched' monkeypox response

Jonathan Van Ness has slammed the United States government for its “botched” response to monkeypox in an op-ed, criticising its action as “a day late and a dollar short”.

Writing for TIME Magazine, the Queer Eye host compared the government’s action on the current monkeypox outbreak to the horror of the AIDs crisis, claiming that for the LGBTQ+ community, “monkeypox is like: same day, different virus.”

“We’re used to this sort of inaction,” he added.

He wrote: “Watching the government’s botched response to monkeypox has been surreal, and in many ways, I believe it’s been fuelled by homophobia and transphobia.

“When an outbreak affects mainly men who have sex with men, some portion of our elected legislators will have no incentive to act. They think it will not touch their constituents, which is obviously messed up because people’s lives are at stake, and there are queer people in all 50 states.”

He added that failures of the government include “too few tests, lack of access to treatments, inadequate vaccine supply, and ambiguous guidance”.

A group of LGBTQ+ organisations and health groups sounded the alarm on vaccines in the US in July, in an open letter addressed to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) director Rochelle Walensky.

“To date, the CDC has only provided vaccines to those with confirmed hMPXV (monkeypox) exposures, resulting in limited vaccine allotments,” the letter said.

Jonathan Van Ness explained that while he is “really lucky” to be “housed, have money, and have access to protection”, isolating for 21 days for those on lower incomes in “excruciating pain” is difficult without government protections in place.

He wrote: “From the moment that monkeypox cases began rising in June, the government should have been taking more proactive steps.

“If our government doesn’t prioritise more robust vaccine access, the outbreak is going to become an even greater problem.

“We’ve seen, in recent history, an administration procure a lot of vaccines fast. Why is it that we haven’t seen this administration prioritize the rapid procurement of monkeypox vaccines?”

Van Ness drew parallels with HIV, which he has opened up about living with himself, stating the stigma both monkeypox and HIV share proves how society “consistently fails people on the margins”.

He added: “Declaring monkeypox a federal public health emergency on 4 August was a step in the right direction – but it was a day late and a dollar short.

“This is how young queer people become disenfranchised and disillusioned and believe that their leaders don’t care about them.”

Jonathan Van Ness added that while he is fighting the government’s response to monkeypox, their lack of action is not a surprise due to the historic marginalisation of LGBTQ+ people.

“I do this joke in my stand-up routine – that it’s been so funny watching straight people be shocked with the government response during COVID-19, because we’re like… ‘you thought the government was going to come help you?’.

“We’re used to this sort of inaction. Monkeypox is like: same day, different virus.”

The latest data from the CDC reports 31,799 global cases of monkeypox in its current outbreak, as of Monday (15 August).