Monkey Pox Anxiety Ramps Up

With limited supplies and growing outbreaks on both sides of the Atlantic, the mishandling resonates with those that remember the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

Health Sexual Health Triston Brewer

This article was published on August 30th, 2022

Monkey pox can no longer be ignored.

Initially only reported as a few outbreaks, the numbers have now risen to a level that are alarming both medical professionals and the community of men who have sex with men (MSM), who are currently the most at risk. What were once whispers have turned into shouts and screams as queer men lament the lack of vaccines available, of waiting in lines for hours to no avail, of contracting the disease, and in a few rare occurrences – dying.

Even today, misinformation abounds and there are many that are unaware of how it is contracted or even how the vaccine works. But what is known is that gay and bisexual men account for 98% of the outbreaks according to the World Health Organization and if something is not done en masse, these numbers are set to expand beyond the LGBTQ+ umbrella in only a few months. 

The Hunt for The Vaccine

There is a legion of gay and bisexual men that have been waiting weeks (and for some up to months) for the vaccine but have been unable to do so because of few to no doses available. Reports have also covered health facilities that are struggling to provide the basic information because of underfunding, being understaffed, and not enough manpower to cover all aspects of the growing health crisis. 

Even for men classified as high risk, finding a place to get vaccinated remains a crucial dilemma with demand so high. This is a problem currently being reported on both sides of the Atlantic, with centers in London and New York citing many men being turned away due to lack of supply.

For many living through the monkey pox health scare, it echoes the late 80s and 90s – particularly for older gay and bisexual men that were alive during the time and remember clearly the anxiety in the air amongst the community and throughout healthcare facilities. 

Demand Remains High

Of those that are eligible for the vaccine (those on PrEP, HIV-positive patients, those who recently had STIs, men with multiple partners, who participate in group sex or attend “sex on premises” venues), many have waited in lines for hours, only to be turned away in many instances without being vaccinated.

Within minutes, many clinics have reported slots fill up and people wait patiently – and many impatiently. With the monkey pox vaccine currently in short supply around the world, rationing has begun in many areas where only those with confirmed exposure through sexual compact eligible for jabs.

The Origins of Monkey Pox

Initially identified in the Democratic Republic of Congo 50 years ago, monkey pox is well-known throughout western and central Africa, but its circulation in Europe and beyond is new and unusual. Although it passes through sexual contact, the virus also transmits through close skin-to-skin contact.

It typically presents with milder symptoms in most people, including spots or poxes that last from 7 to 10 days. More serious complications from the disease, however, an include hospitalization, lesions around the neck, mouth, and genital area, plus pain when eating or excreting.

Most people fully recover within 21 days, but for dire cases, complications can be more long-term. Approximately 75 deaths have been reported across the African continent this year alone according to the African Centre for Disease Control. 

The good news is that, unlike COVID-19, monkey pox is not expected to mutate and lead to repeat infections, with vaccination drives showing tremendous results. Still, there are many in the community that are demanding more access to vaccine as a frontline defense against contracting the virus in the first place. City officials in countries in Europe and America are requesting additional funds to provide support to the community as quickly as possible.

The additional problem is that there is not enough vaccine available to begin with as there are more people in need of the vaccine than supply could treat. With only one global supplier, there has been exploration into whether recently expired doses could be used to bridge the gap in vaccination requests. 

Intersectionality of Monkey Pox and HIV/AIDS

The global situation and response to the monkey pox echoes the late 80s and 90s when response times were slow, and people worldwide witnessed governments and national agencies that failed to act in response to the growing AIDS crisis. In 2022, no one wants history to repeat itself as the consequences could be dire if monkey pox spreads and vaccine supplies dry up and cause an endemic situation.

After being let down by their governments before, gay and bisexual men this time around are being even more vigilant with their health and demanding action that matches the status of the community. 

HomoCulture will continue to provide updates to the continuing monkey pox crisis.


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