Lee Suckling: Monkeypox incites outrage in the gay community

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The kind of AIDS-era slut shaming that happens to men who have sex with men is prevalent on this issue. Photo/Getty Images

OPINION

There is no such thing as a “gay disease,” but that’s not what the comment sections of popular news sites would have you believe right now.

A good friend of mine is a producer of one of the morning television shows. He tells me that every time his network does a story about monkeypox, his social media is flooded with homophobic vitriol.

In fact, the kind of AIDS-era slut shaming that occurs for men who have sex with men is prevalent on this issue.

Forty years ago, homosexuals were reprimanded for their “irresponsible” behavior; said by many in the conservative heterosexual community (including some in the medical community) that they had brought HIV/AIDS upon them for their poor choices.

It took a decade or more for society at large to realize that AIDS was not a “gay disease”; there is no such thing. It affected men, women and children all over the world.

Here in New Zealand we don’t have a monkeypox plan and it is gay people who could be blamed for any widespread outbreak. This should concern all of us, as we are all on high alert for disease and infection these days and humans love a scapegoat: someone to point fingers and blame.

This is made easier when a minority group (say an ethnic or sexual minority) can be implicated in people’s desire to assign blame. It happened with AIDS, it happened with Covid, and now it’s happening again with monkeypox.

Needless to say I’m angry. If you regularly read my columns, you will notice that I try to be positive in my contributions. But this question is really getting my goat.

In a New York magazine article, a queer activist on a public health march was quoted as saying, “In a few months, on the cover of every magazine, there will be children with monkeypox. on the face. And they will accuse us of having It’s only our anger that will protect us.

Monkeypox is not well contained in the United States, and with our borders open I’m afraid it’s only a matter of time before we see a real outbreak here beyond the few isolated cases so far . And it won’t just affect the gay community.

According Johns Hopkins University“Put simply, monkeypox is spread by close physical contact and anyone can catch it. Close physical contact can include sex, but it really isn’t necessary – and that’s why the monkeypox is not an STI.”

Two factors have led to the misconception that monkeypox is an STI. First, you can get monkeypox during sex, just like you can get Covid or the flu during sex.

It’s not STIs – it’s close contact during sex, not specifically sexual contact, that causes transmission.

Also, monkeypox can present like some STIs as sores (it can look like herpes or syphilis, for example).

I want you to read that again. Monkeypox is not exclusively a sexually transmitted infection. It can be transferred between people with any type of close contact; including any skin-to-skin contact, not just genital.

It may also be possible to spread through large respiratory droplets and through contact with microscopic skin cells that have been shed by an infected person. As anyone can be exposed, everyone should be aware of it.

Why then do we speak of a “disease of homosexuals”? Disinformation. Everything is stigma.

While some of the first reported cases of monkeypox came from gay male communities, “an outbreak could just as easily have occurred in any gathering place,” confirms Johns Hopkins.

“Just because one group had an increased risk of exposure at some point doesn’t mean other groups can’t be exposed.”

There is already a monkeypox vaccine, but New Zealand does not buy it. The government remains silent on the supply of vaccines (again), as if we have learned nothing in the past two years.

Once again, we have a unique opportunity – offered by geographic distance and time – to get ahead of this viral disease. Are we going to seize the opportunity to be world leaders in public health (as we were in 2020), or sit on our hands?

This is because monkeypox is usually mild – even if people don’t die from it, that doesn’t mean it won’t be destructive.

Will you be angry if your child catches monkeypox at school, knowing that the government could have vaccinated the class as a preventive measure?

What if you catch it at work and then have sores and scabs all over your face and body for weeks?

I will be, because I’m angry now. Angry at the stigma in my community and angry at the warning signs that New Zealand as a whole chooses not to see.

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