Speed Reads


John Oliver explains monkeypox and why it's 'not homophobic' to highlight it's mostly affecting gay men

"For the past several months, you may have noticed monkeypox being discussed with an increasing sense of alarm," John Oliver said on Sunday's Last Week Tonight. And "the spread of monkeypox is genuinely alarming. Its most obvious symptom is skin lesions, which can, in severe cases, be extremely painful. And while the pain is not remotely funny, people have been getting very creative in how they describe it." He showed some examples, not all of them "PG."

"Frustratingly, despite the fact we're still in middle of the COVID pandemic, we seem to be replicating some of its key mistakes, from persecuting strangers to spreading misinformation to badly mismanaging the public health response," Oliver said. "So tonight we thought it'd be worth talking about monkeypox: What it is, how we fumbled our response to it, and what we should do going forward." He began with the common symptoms —  fever, swollen lymph nodes, exhaustion, headache, and rash — and some history of this pox virus, including the last U.S. outbreak, linked to pet prairie dogs. Oliver also noted that, unlike with COVID, monkeypox is a known virus with existing tests, vaccines, and treatments. 

"Basically, every part of our early response to this made this harder than they needed to be, and I will say there have been some improvements recently," Oliver said. "But the delays we've seen in fixing these problems have been absolutely maddening, and it has been hard not to wonder whether the lack of urgency has had anything to do with who's been getting hit the hardest." Look, he said, "it is not homophobic to acknowledge who is currently most affected, which is gay and bisexual men, sex workers, and people who participate in sex with multiple partners. What is homophobic is when you blame or shame the people who are suffering, or when you decide you don't need to care about this because you don't see their lives as valuable or their suffering as consequential. And that is where there are strong echoes of the AIDS crisis in some of the discussion around monkeypox." He used Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) as an example of what not to do. 

Oliver highlighted some bad and good public health messaging, argued for belatedly investing in and restructuring our public health apparatus, and used some scattered NSFW language throughout.