By Nancy Lapid
(Reuters) - Drugmaker Gilead Sciences plans to announce on Tuesday that it will provide up to $5 million in grants to help a coalition of LGBTQ+ and human rights advocacy groups craft public health responses to monkeypox outbreaks, the company said.
Outside of Africa, where the virus is endemic, new cases have largely occurred among gay and bisexual men. Experts warn that the virus could spread to other populations, especially due to vaccine shortages. The World Health Organization and the United States have declared monkeypox a public health emergency.
The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), GLAAD, the National Black Justice Coalition, and the National Center for Lesbian Rights are each receiving $350,000 from Gilead for public education toward preventing and treating the virus.
Gilead is a leading producer of therapies to treat HIV. The company said it is also evaluating whether any of its treatments or experimental drug candidates could be effective against monkeypox.
GLAAD's staff has not been able to meet recent demands for information about monkeypox, said spokesperson Rich Ferraro. "With this partnership we'll be able to do more," he said.
The funds will help the groups produce videos, graphics and other information resources for distribution to the media and at community centers, bars, nightclubs, parties and events.
Torrian Baskerville, director of HIV and Health Equity at HRC, said the U.S. response to the virus at federal, state and local levels has been "slow across the board."
Policy changes are urgently needed to streamline the distribution of vaccines, with current systems varying among states, he said.
NMAC - formerly the National Minority AIDS Coalition - will receive $500,000 to coordinate the coalition's public policy efforts.
Another $3 million is reserved for emergency grants to smaller organizations worldwide. Already stretched thin by COVID-19, these groups may otherwise need to delay patients' usual care during monkeypox outbreaks, said Gilead spokesperson Korab Zuka.
(Reporting by Nancy Lapid; editing by Michele Gershberg and Bernadette Baum)