Monkeypox could become endemic in Britain without more action from the Government, leading sexual health organisations have warned.
And without more support to tackle the spread of the virus, other sexual health services are suffering.
As of July 11, there were 1,735 confirmed cases in the UK in the latest outbreak, 96% of which have been found in England, according to UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) figures.
Leading organisations have called for the Government, the UKHSA and NHS England to take action to stop the spread after estimating that cases of monkeypox 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.
And disruption to HIV services also risks jeopardising the Government’s target of ending new HIV cases in the UK by 2030, they added.
The organisations are calling for £51 million from the Department of Health & Social Care to control the outbreak as well as ensuring that the vaccine programme – whereby 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”.
The bodies have also called for more support for those who are isolating – people with a confirmed case of monkeypox are advised to isolate for 21 days.
“Monkeypox cases are currently doubling every 15 days and we have now reached a critical point in our ability to control its spread,” said Dr Claire Dewsnap, president of British Association of Sexual Health & HIV.
“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.”
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.”
The majority of cases of monkeypox are among gay and bisexual men, and experts have warned that without action the virus could also start spreading in other groups, including people who are more vulnerable to the infection.
The Local Government Association (LGA) called for long term fundung for seual health services.
David Fothergill, chairman of the LGA’s Community Wellbeing Board, said: “Local authority commissioned sexual health services have played a vital role at detecting, treating and managing a small but rising number of monkeypox cases across the country.
“While it is good to see an increase in people taking their sexual health seriously, a rising demand is pushing some councils’ sexual health services to peak capacity levels which are not sustainable in the long term.
“Record demand for service and the spread of treatment-resistant infection in recent years mean that many services are already struggling to cope, despite valiant efforts from staff.
“Long-term funding for these services will ensure that they are more resilient to meet the challenges ahead.”