One of the UK’s leading sexual health charities, Terrence Higgins Trust, has cut ties with the government over its approach to the monkeypox outbreak.

It comes not long after news broke that Health Secretary Thérèse Coffey had rejected advice to buy extra vaccine doses due to value-for-money concerns.

“A sustained, multi-channel campaign targeting gay and bisexual men is urgently needed to protect this group’s health from monkeypox and stop it from becoming endemic in the UK,” the charity said in a press release. “Terrence Higgins Trust has raised this consistently over several months with the UK Health Security Agency but it still hasn’t happened.”

Terrence Higgins Trust added that it is “very concerned by the UKHSA’s lacklustre monkeypox communications strategy” and has therefore “decided to withdraw from its monkeypox communications meetings as, despite consistently raising our concerns, appropriate action has not been taken.”

It will “remain committed” to the System-Wide Monkeypox Action Plan for England in the hopes that its concerns “will be addressed.”

Monkeypox has been declared a “public health emergency of international concern” by the World Health Organization, the same status given to COVID-19 shortly after it began spreading.

Up to 10 October, there were 3,523 confirmed and 150 highly probable cases of monkeypox in the UK, according to data from the UKHSA.

Despite these being in decline in recent weeks, sexual health services continue to report that they are being placed under vast pressure because of monkeypox testing and vaccination – resulting in limited capacity for things such as HIV and STI testing.

Although anyone can contract the infection, gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men have so far been disproprtionately affected by the outbreak.

Dominic Edwardes, Director of Communications at Terrence Higgins Trust, said: “The overwhelming majority of monkeypox cases continue to be in gay and bisexual men and a sustained, multi-channel campaign targeted at this community is needed to protect this group’s health and prevent monkeypox from becoming endemic in the UK.

“It’s crucial we reach those at high risk who still need to be vaccinated, those needing to access a second dose and those currently managing the risk through changing their sexual behaviour.”

The announcement follows the charity sending a letter to Jenny Harries, chief executive of the UKHSA, in September.

“Serious concerns” about the organisation’s approach to monkeypox were raised, though the charity received no response.

In response to Terrence Higgins Trust’s decision, Dr Will Morton, UKHSA Monkeypox Incident Director, told GAY TIMES: “The UK was the first to detect the international outbreak of monkeypox and we purchased 150,000 vaccine doses early to help protect the public.

“With thanks to Terrence Higgins Trust and other LGBT+ and sexual health partners, there is very high awareness of the disease, its symptoms and how to seek help and prevent transmission among those at higher risk.

“We are not complacent and will continue to ensure that everyone has the information they need to stay safe.

“Cases of monkeypox are low and this is thanks to a combination of the vaccine and changes in behaviour, based on information that UKHSA has published.”