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Jonathan Van Ness Says Government's Reaction to Monkeypox Is 'Fueled by Homophobia and Transphobia'

·3-min read
LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 06: Jonathan Van Ness attends the Netflix FYSee Kick Off Party at Raleigh Studios on May 6, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Vivien Killilea/Getty Images for Netflix)
LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 06: Jonathan Van Ness attends the Netflix FYSee Kick Off Party at Raleigh Studios on May 6, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Vivien Killilea/Getty Images for Netflix)

Vivien Killilea/Getty

Jonathan Van Ness is sharing his thoughts on the U.S. government's "botched response" to the monkeypox outbreak.

In a pointed TIME essay published on Monday, the 35-year-old Queer Eye star recalled the moment the nation reported its first official case in May, calling out the government's reaction.

"Watching the government's botched response to monkeypox has been surreal, and in many ways, I believe it's been fueled by homophobia and transphobia," he said, adding, "When an outbreak affects mainly men who have sex with men, some portion of our elected legislators will have no incentive to act. He thinks 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."

The reality of the virus hit home for Van Ness when a friend was forced to cancel a trip to New Orleans, where Van Ness is taping Queer Eye, after being exposed to monkeypox.

"I started calling all the political contacts I have, ringing alarm bells about how quickly cases were rising, and pleading with officials to take the virus more seriously."

RELATED: Monkeypox 'Not a Sexually Transmitted Infection' but CDC Warns of Rashes in Genital Area

Likening the government's reaction to monkeypox to that of the deadly slow response by authorities to the AIDS epidemic, Van Ness said he is "disappointed" in politicians who were in office then and now "like President [Joe] Biden and Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi."

"Once again, we're seeing too little action taken until the situation has ballooned out of control. If nothing changes, we'll continue to experience failures like this response, which has been plagued with too few testslack of access to treatmentsinadequate vaccine supply, and ambiguous guidance," he said.

RELATED: Woman with 'Extremely Painful' Monkeypox Says She Wasn't Offered Vaccine or Antiviral Treatments

Van Ness then called out officials for not taking "more proactive steps" to release an easily accessible vaccine after cases "began rising in June."

"Why is it that we haven't seen this administration prioritize the rapid procurement of monkeypox vaccines?' he asked pointing to how, like at the start of the AIDS epidemic, many seem to be considering –– and dismissing –– the virus as something just impacting the LGBTQ+ community.

RELATED VIDEO: Illinois Daycare Worker Tests Positive for Monkeypox, Children Potentially Exposed

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 during his stand-up shows.

"It's been so funny watching straight people be shocked with the government response during COVID-19, because we're like, 'Honey, this is Tuesday," Van Ness, who discovered he was HIV positive 10 years ago, said. "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."

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Added the star: "I think that tragedy, hope, despair, and resilience all can live next door to each other. But we need to act."

Stating that "everyone should care about monkeypox" even if they aren't directly impacted by it, "because we should care about each other," Van Ness left fans with a reminder that other diseases, such as HIV, still exist, along with the stereotypes around them and the limits to proper health care.

"This isn't just a monkeypox story. This is a story of how we consistently fail people on the margins. We have to become bold about what we're willing to witness—and no one should have been willing to witness this outbreak spread for the last two months," he wrote."