Overview:

CNN is reporting that phlebotomists at two of the country’s largest labs, Labcorp and Quest Diagnostics, are refusing to draw blood on patients with potential monkeypox infections.

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Phlebotomists at two of the country’s largest labs, Labcorp and Quest Diagnostics, are refusing to draw blood on patients with potential monkeypox infections. Such actions potentially constitute cases of prejudice, reminiscent of the early days of the AIDS crisis in the 1980s when discrimination ran rampant.

It is unclear whether the behavior is a result of the individual phlebotomists deciding not to serve patients or if they are company-wide policies. Irrespective of who is making the decision not to service patients, experts believe that the decision has nothing to do with the virulence of the virus or any danger of actually drawing blood. 

Steven Haden, founder of Envision-You, a Denver-based nonprofit focused on the mental health and well-being of Colorado’s LGBTQ+ community, noted last week that:

The community is already experiencing profound mental health challenges through stigma, discrimination, targeted harassment. As you think about how do we target messages, especially around public health emergencies like monkeypox, we need to be very thoughtful about how we craft and target certain populations with messaging, how do we engage people in a way they feel safe and understood. And using culturally relevant and affirming language is essential.

Using words that reduce stigma can change behavior. The actions taken by these labs are considered by some experts to be potentially discriminatory. This could lead to fewer people in the general public treating their infections responsibly. The likely first symptom of monkeypox infection is fever, headache, and malaise. The telltale lesions from the infection usually do not appear for several days.

As COVID continues to rage throughout the US, monkeypox is presenting new problems. Discrimination in lab testing could potentially intensify the outbreak and make things worse. 

David Weidman is the regional coordinator for SMART Recovery (Self-Management And Recovery Training) in Los Angeles with over 5,000 hours of in-person meetings for sufferers and their loved ones. SMART...