Monkeypox: Are gay men really more likely to get Monkeypox?

After two years of health crisis linked to Covid-19, the media irruption of a new virus, “Monkeypox”, the monkey pox, worries all the more in the LGBT community as rumors are going strong.

Monkey pox has taken over the landscape in recent days. This Thursday, health authorities reported 200 confirmed cases of “monkeypox” were recorded in Europe, North America, Australia and Israel, countries where this disease is usually extremely rare. The circulation of the disease raises questions in particular about the type of population particularly affected.

Are homosexual men really more contaminated?

Indeed, the recorded cases of monkeypox are, for the time being, “primarily, but not exclusively, young men who have had sex with men“, says the World Health Organization (WHO). And according to the UKHSA, the British health agency, “gay and bisexual men have so far been disproportionately affected“.

According to scientists who are trying to find out more about this new disease, it is very likely that monkeypox is transmitted by a prolonged contact, skin to skin, with a person with an active lesion, or through prolonged exposure to respiratory droplets from someone with oral lesions. Sexual relations would therefore, a priori, fall within this framework of “proximity” between two individuals. And this, regardless of their sexual orientation.

Thus, the increase in the number of cases could be linked to certain propagative events within the gay community, explaining a higher prevalence among homosexual and bisexual men, details Nice morning. “The gay community includes fairly festive people who are used to meeting at major events – especially after two years of the Covid pandemic – and who may have several sexual partners”, testifies to the Parisian Jean*, a fifty-year-old Swiss living in Antwerp.

However, this does not mean “in any way”, according to American epidemiologist John Brooks, that “the current risk of exposure to monkeypox only concerns the gay and bisexual community”. MSM, men who have sex with men, represent a large, but not exclusive, part of the cases currently recorded. It is too early to understand the reasons. It could be the simple fact that the alert was first given in this community and therefore that more tests were carried out”, tempered Alexandre Mailles, infectious disease specialist at Public Health France this Friday at a press conference.

The risk of stigma

Sunday, May 22, the Directorate General of Health (DGS) indicated to our colleagues from Ouest France that several suspected cases were under study in France. And this after the report of the first case in France in a 29-year-old man.

It wasn’t long before the World Health Organization (WHO) and national health authorities noticed that many of the cases involved men who have sex with men. This suggests sexual transmission.

However, the director of the WHO for Europe, Hans Kluge, insisted on Friday on the importance of not “stigmatizing or discriminating against people who have contracted the disease”. Rightly since UNAIDS has since denounced several “homophobic” and “racist” media treatments on the subject.

Is Monkeypox an STI?

No, it is not a sexually transmitted infection (STI) in the proper sense. Since monkeypox can be transmitted through saliva, sex with an infected person can transmit it but is not necessary. “It is probably too early to draw conclusions on the mode of transmission or to assume that sexual activity was necessary for transmission”, thus warned Michael Skinner, virologist at Imperial College London with our colleagues from Stubborn.

What are risky behaviors?

In Madrid, the vast majority of the first confirmed cases of “monkeypox” attended a gay sauna located in the heart of the city, “El Paraíso”. In Toronto (Canada), where a suspected case from Montreal has been identified, the people having gone to a gay bar (the Woody’s bar) or in a concert hall may have been exposed to the virus.

In Belgium, at least three of the four patients had participated in the Darklands fetish festival, which was held from May 4 to 9 in Antwerp. “Elements lead to believe that the virus was brought by visitors from abroad”, indicate the organizers of the festival to our colleagues from the Parisianwhich was attended by many members of the LGBT community.

Reassuring data

In France, Public Health France recalls, “that at this stage, the cases reported in Europe are mainly benignand there are no reported deaths”. SPF also calls on “patients to respect isolation for the duration of the illness” (until the last crusts disappear, most often 3 weeks).

Another feature to note: people over 50 seem immune to monkeypox, because until 1979, the French were obligatory vaccinated against smallpox.

If symptoms appear, it is imperative to isolate yourself and wear a mask, said Public Health France. And of course, contact your doctor.

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