UNAIDS warned Sunday that homophobic and racist overtones in some comments about monkeypox could "rapidly undermine the fight against the epidemic".
A significant proportion of the 100 or so cases of monkeypox confirmed by the World Health Organization (WHO) or national health authorities involve homosexuals, bisexuals, or men who have sex with men, UNAIDS said, noting that the disease is spread through close contact with an infected person and "can therefore affect everyone.
"Such stigma and blame undermine confidence and the ability to respond effectively to epidemics like this," said Matthew Kavanagh, deputy director of UNAIDS.
The UN agency, which draws on long experience with AIDS, believes that such rhetoric can torpedo science-based and fact-based efforts to combat the disease.
Such racist or homophobic attacks "create a cycle of fear that pushes people to avoid health facilities, limiting the scope of efforts to identify cases of infection," he said.
Monkeypox is less dangerous than smallpox, which has been eradicated for some 40 years. Its symptoms include fever, headache, muscle aches, back pain, swollen lymph nodes, chills and fatigue.
Then rashes appear (on the face, palms of the hands, soles of the feet), lesions, bumps, and scabs.
There is no treatment for monkeypox, endemic to West Africa. According to the WHO, its symptoms last between 14 and 21 days, and it cures itself.
Several Western countries, including France, Germany, the United Kingdom, the United States, Sweden and Spain, have reported disease cases.