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Denver health care organizations work to address monkeypox disparities

Monkeypox Vaccine
Posted at 3:01 PM, Aug 25, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-26 07:57:19-04

DENVER – Local health care organizations are responding to new Colorado monkeypox’s (MPV) statistics that reveal the virus's disproportionate impact on LGBTQIA+ Coloradans of color.

“We’re always disproportionately impacted,”said James Greer, senior vice president of Vivent Health. “So that's where I think, in health care, we need to focus our energies on how we target those markets and provide support and resources.”

Vivent Health provides clinical, dental and wraparound services for HIV patients.

“We have a food pantry, we provide behavioral health services, legal services, case management and housing services, prevention services that consist of testing, education around HIV, STIs, and HepC, as well,” Greer said. “We have our on-site testing here and are now transitioning into this world of monkeypox.”

Greer said Vivent is also using partnerships made during the pandemic to respond to MPV.

“The [Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment] has brought in about 60 partners, and we all meet on a weekly basis,” Greer said. “CDPHE updates us on the information that they have, we update them on what we're learning, because we're all trying to do this together. There's only so many vaccines.”

Greer said part of Vivent’s daily work includes fighting stigmas.

“We’ve focused a lot on breaking down the stigma and trying to educate people that HIV does not only impact the LGBTQIA community, but it impacts the greater community as a whole. And monkey pox is no different,” Greer said.

Denver healthcare organizations work to address monkeypox disparities

Toni Baruti, Center for African American Health board chair, said MPV’s impact on Black and brown communities is not a result of genetics or being more susceptible, but a result of accessible healthcare.

“It has to do with resources, it has to do with access to health,” Baruti said. “When we talk about access, it is really looking at the communities itself and what resources are coming into those communities. We have federal funds that are set aside specifically for health equity.”

But Baruti said that funding doesn’t always trickle down.

“One thing that we would like to say to the state local leaders is that currently, there's no funding for community outreach for vaccinations for monkeypox,” Baruti said.

Baruti said state funding made a big difference for nonprofits trying to provide services to underserved communities during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Baruti said combining state funding and the trust they’ve already built in Black and brown communities could help nonprofits like hers reach patients that are most at-risk.