More than 2,000 cases of monkeypox have been reported in the United States since May, and New York has seen the highest numbers. Though vaccines exist, many have reported struggles to access them.
“I immigrated here [to the US] three years ago thinking this would be a safe haven,” Gigi, an attendee who asked to be identified by only his first name to protect his privacy, told BuzzFeed News. “India, where I’m from, has monkeypox vaccines. We don’t have it here. It makes me feel enraged. How is this possible?”
Finding clear and concise information about the virus has also been a problem, leaving people dependent on what they can find on social media. Many have begun sharing anecdotal stories online about jumping through hoops to get medical appointments or even basic information about the virus.
“The New York state health department website is always crashing,” Gigi said. “It’s crazy. You can’t get an appointment for testing anywhere. This should not be what is going on. This will be a pandemic within itself. I don’t know how I’ll pay rent if I get monkeypox.”
Ariel Friedlander, one of the rally’s organizers, told BuzzFeed News she has very little trust in information coming from major media outlets and government agencies. “If there’s anything I’ve learned from my queer elders at ACT UP, it’s that delving through scientific studies with your community members is often the most effective way to gather accurate information. This is a silenced disease. I rely on mutual aid networks and queer party group chats that have suddenly become monkeypox support groups.”