Monkeypox could become endemic in Britain without action from the Government, leading sexual health organisations have said.
As of July 11, there were 1,735 confirmed cases in the UK in the latest outbreak, according to UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) figures.
42 of these cases have been identified in Scotland, according to Public Health Scotland (PHS), with 96% of laboratory-confirmed monkeypox cases noted in England.
Leading organisations are now calling for the Government, the UKHSA and NHS England to take action to stop the spread after approximating that cases of the virus are doubling every 15 days.
Many sexual health services are reporting reductions in other services because of the additional burden of monkeypox, according to the British Association of Sexual Health & HIV, Association of Directors of Public Health, Terrence Higgins Trust, National Aids Trust, British HIV Association, LGBT Foundation, PrEPster, i-base and UK Community Advisory Board.
They added that disruption to HIV services could put the Government’s target of ending new HIV cases in the UK by 2030 in jeopardy.
The organisations are calling for £51m from the Department of Health & Social Care to control the outbreak, as well as to ensure that the vaccine programme – in which certain groups are being offered the smallpox vaccine to stem the spread of the virus – is properly resourced.
They warned that the current vaccination rollout is “too slow with far too few being vaccinated”.
Dr Claire Dewsnap, president of British Association of Sexual Health & HIV, said: “Monkeypox cases are currently doubling every 15 days and we have now reached a critical point in our ability to control its spread.
“Already-stretched sexual health services are buckling under the additional pressures that the outbreak is placing upon them, and an increasing volume of core sexual health care is being displaced as a result.
“This has left us on the precipice of a fresh public health crisis, one which can only be averted with urgent, additional support.”
Jim McManus, president of the Association of Directors of Public Health, added: “We must eliminate this outbreak. If it becomes endemic in any part of our population because it will cost hundreds of times more in pain, misery, harm and avoidable cost than eliminating it.”
The majority of cases of monkeypox are among gay and bisexual men, and experts have warned that inaction could cause spread of the virus to other groups, including people who are more vulnerable to the infection.
Richard Angell, campaigns director at Terrence Higgins Trust, said: “There is a clear choice in front of us: urgently do what is needed to tackle the spread of monkeypox or continue the lacklustre response to date which will mean the virus becomes endemic in the UK with more and more people impacted. More vaccines are vital to this.
“Monkeypox is overwhelming our world class sexual health services.
“Healthcare staff are doing a brilliant job on the frontline of the country’s monkeypox response – but they’re at breaking point, having to make painful choice between treating monkeypox and issuing PrEP or long acting contraception and desperately in need of additional funding to urgently turn the tide.”
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