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

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

After two years of health crisis linked to Covid-19, the media coverage of a new virus, “Monkeypox”, the monkey pox, is even more worrying in the LGBT community as rumors grow stronger.

Monkeypox has taken over the landscape in recent days. This Thursday, health authorities reported that 200 confirmed cases of “monkeypox” were registered 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?

In fact, recorded cases of monkeypox are, at the moment, “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 skin-to-skin contact, with a person with an active lesion, or by prolonged exposure to respiratory droplets from someone with oral lesions. Sexual relations would enter, then, a priori, in 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 beautiful morning. “The gay community includes quite festive people who are used to meeting at big events – especially after two years of the Covid pandemic – and who may have several sexual partners,” testifies the Parisian Jean*, a fifty-year-old Swiss man living in Antwerp.

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

The risk of stigma

On Sunday, May 22, the Directorate General for Health (DGS) informed our colleagues at 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 noted 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 this Friday on the importance of not “stigmatizing or discriminating against people who have contracted the disease.” With good reason, UNAIDS has since denounced various “homophobic” and “racist” media treatments of the issue.

Is monkeypox an STI?

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

What are risk behaviors?

In Madrid, the vast majority of the first confirmed cases of “monkey chickenpox” attended a gay sauna located in the heart of the city, “The Paradise”. In Toronto (Canada), where a suspected case from Montreal has been identified, people who have 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. “There are elements that make us think that the virus was brought by visitors from abroad,” the festival organizers tell our colleagues from the Parisianwhich was attended by many members of the LGBT community.

Reassuring data

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

Another characteristic to take into account: people over 50 seem immune to monkeypox, because until 1979, the French were obligatorily vaccinated against smallpox.

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

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