How can I avoid monkeypox during Pride week?
24 June 2022. Related: All topics, Coinfections.
Hi, I am a gay man in London and I am worried about monkeypox. What can I do to stay safe during Pride this week? Will being undetectable on ART help?
Thanks for your question.
The easiest way to avoid monkeypox (MPX) is to not have sex for the next few weeks. Or at least, not with anyone who has been at recent risk of catching MPX.
That is the easiest and most direct suggestion.
This will also protect sexual health services who are already are overwhelmed with the current outbreak. These services urgently need rapid and adequate funding to respond to this new outbreak in our communities.
Being on HIV meds is great for HIV but won’t protect against MPX. A high proportion of current cases are in men living with HIV. But based on limited data, HIV doesn’t make the risk of catching MPX any higher, or make the symptoms any worse.
You can do everything else at Pride that you love doing. March, celebrate, dance – and in any state you like. Just limit physical contact, even though is normally why Pride is so important.
The info below explains why i-Base is giving this information so directly.
The highest risks of catching MPX come from situations when it is easy to have several partners, especially anonymously. This includes in private parties, sauna’s, darkrooms, sex-clubs and outdoor cruising spaces.
In some situations MPX is not a rare infection. It is highly infectious. It is very easy to catch and very easy to transmit.
- Skin contact is the highest risk even if you don’t have sex with many people.
- Saliva is likely to be infectious, whether kissing or during oral sex.
- Lighting is usually very low so any small rash will not be easy to see.
- In some cases, early spots can look as harmless as as mosquito bite.
- In some cases spots have been reported where they are difficult to see.
- MPX stays active on hard surfaces that are difficult to clean throughout the night.
- MPX can stay active for longer on soft materials like cloths, towels and bedding.
Over the last six weeks, MPX in the UK went from a handful of cases in mid-May to over 800 cases in late June. Although nearly all the early cases were in London, MPX is already reported now across the UK.
Nearly all the cases are in gay and bisexual men, with most occurring when people were likely unaware that anything was wrong. Without careful cleaning, MPX remains infectious on hard surfaces for 2-3 weeks and possibly longer on clothes and towels.
Almost half the cases in one UK study had more than ten partners over the previous few months.
Although MPX is usually a mild infection, it can still be difficult and unpleasant. It also involves self isolation at home, usually for at least three weeks.
Within the next month, there will be much more information about MPX. A vaccine might also become more widely available.
As a caution, one vaccine shot might give 45% protection. This only reduces the risk of catching MPX by about half, but it might also reduce symptoms.
Two shots of the vaccine, given 28 days apart, gives up to 85% protection. However, limited vaccine supplies might mean one shot is initially planned for most people in the UK.
This link is to more detailed information on MPX.