'Shame has no place in the practice of medicine': Atlanta doctor on surging Monkeypox cases

Georgia public health officials are working to increase the number of monkeypox vaccine doses as cases rise in the state and across the U.S.

Demand for the monkeypox vaccine continues to be greater than supply across metro Atlanta. Georgia is among the states with the most cases.

But several doctors across the metro tell WABE those numbers are likely much higher.

That has to do with confusion over where to get tested in the first place. There’s no blood test that will diagnose Monkeypox early on. It’s diagnosed with a PCR test, done by swabbing an already-present lesion and sending it off for labwork.

But Atlanta doctor Melanie Thompson tells WABE it also has to do with stigma.

Georgia is reporting nearly 600 confirmed cases, with men accounting for the vast majority. A few cases are confirmed in women. Most of the male cases are among men who have sex with men.

“I think it already is a stigmatized disease. We hear people saying terrible things about individuals with monkeypox,” Thompson said.

“I have heard a number of patients who simply say to me that they’re ashamed. That they didn’t want to come forward because of shame. Shame has no place in the practice of medicine. But unfortunately, historically shame and stigma have had a big place in obstructing our response to epidemics like HIV and, now, monkeypox.”

The monkeypox virus mainly spreads through intimate skin-to-skin contact, and Georgia health officials say they expect to see more cases in the coming weeks among the close contacts of already infected people —  regardless of gender or age. 

Thompson sat down with WABE’s “All Things Considered” and gave a clinical and more personal account of what she’s heard while testing and treating patients.

Lily Oppenheimer contributed to this report.