Factsheet for the LGBTQ Community on Monkeypox (MPV)

By GLAAD |
September 2, 2022

Factsheet for the LGBTQ Community on Monkeypox (MPV)


Overview



En español

Monkeypox is a rare disease caused by infection with MPV (monkeypox virus). MPV was discovered in 1958 and resurfaced in May 2022 in several countries where it is not endemic, including the United States. The virus spreads through direct skin-to-skin contact with an infected individual; contact with contaminated objects, fabrics, or surfaces; or, occasionally, contact with respiratory secretions from an infected individual.

Monkeypox presents as a pimple- or blister-like rash that goes through several phases, including scabbing, before fully healing. Other common symptoms include fever, chills, and swollen lymph nodes. Symptoms usually start within 3 weeks of exposure to the virus and last anywhere between 2–4 weeks. Although MPV may be painful or itchy, it is rarely fatal. In the U.S., there has only been one confirmed death from MPV in a patient who was severely immunocompromised.

MPV is not classified as a sexually transmitted infection, and scientists are still investigating whether the virus can be spread via bodily fluids. However, any prolonged, skin-to-skin contact to an infected person, including sex, does increase the risk of transmission. In the current outbreak, most cases are associated with sexual contact.

On August 4, Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra declared the 2022 U.S. monkeypox outbreak a “public health emergency.” Anyone can spread or contract MPV regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, but the virus is spreading in high numbers among gay men, bisexual men, and other men who have sex with other men. According to CDC data from August 12, 99% of early MPV cases occurred in cisgender and transgender men, 94% of whom reported recent male-to-male sexual or close intimate contact. Black and Latinx people, people living with HIV, and people who were recently diagnosed with STIs are disproportionately impacted in this outbreak, although limited testing capacity has made it difficult to accurately gauge the scope and nuances of MPV cases throughout the U.S.

GLAAD and the CDC have created resources to combat anti-LGBTQ stigma in monkeypox-related communications. Anyone can get MPV, and cisgender women have also contracted the virus.

Dr. Demetre Daskalakis, the White House’s National Monkeypox Response Deputy Coordinator, has likened the 2022 MPV outbreak to 2008’s MRSA outbreak among athletes. These players contracted MRSA because they engaged in skin-to-skin contact and shared facilities with infected athletes, not because they are athletes. Similarly, MPV transmission is more accurately linked to behavior than to a person’s identity.

Since skin-to-skin contact during sex is the main mode of transmission in this outbreak, nearly half of gay and bisexual men have reported reducing their number of sexual partners and/or one-time hookups to protect themselves and their partners from MPV.

Since MPV is in the same viral family as smallpox, the FDA has authorized the use of JYNNEOS, an existing smallpox vaccine, in areas with active outbreaks. The CDC recommends vaccination for people who have been exposed to or may be more likely to get MPV. On August 9, the FDA also said the JYNNEOS vaccine can be delivered intradermally, which requires a smaller dosage and will increase the overall vaccine supply. In response, HHS accelerated its rollout of JYNNEOS vaccines to states and jurisdictions and unveiled a pilot program to provide vaccines at large-scale LGBTQ gatherings.





FAQs



The CDC recommends the JYNNEOS vaccine for individuals who have been exposed to or may be more likely to get MPV. Although the government has taken steps to make more doses of the vaccine available, the supply is still fairly limited. Regardless of your MPV vaccination status, avoid prolonged, skin-to-skin contact with anyone who has a rash that looks like MPV, and refrain from touching any objects or fabrics that a person with the virus has used. Consult the CDC’s prevention page and MPV and safer sex factsheet for more detailed information.

Scientists aren’t sure. Early data found that 41% of MPV cases in the U.S. were among people living with HIV. Importantly, there does not appear to be a higher likelihood of severe monkeypox illness among people living with HIV who have an undetectable viral load. Visit the CDC’s FAQ page to stay up-to-date on the latest research regarding MPV and HIV.

Contact your primary care practitioner or local health clinic to discuss your symptoms and obtain testing. The CDC is urging healthcare providers to look out for rashes consistent with MPV among their patients, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. Stay up-to-date on the CDC’s latest guidelines for taking care of yourself while sick with MPV, including how to keep the rash clean, and preventing spread to others.

It depends on your location. Some areas with high numbers of MPV cases, such as New York City, have limited vaccine eligibility to people at high risk of exposure to MPV, including gay men, transgender and gender non-conforming people, and any men who have sex with other men and who have had multiple or anonymous sex partners in the last 14 days. Meanwhile, Washington, D.C., expanded its eligibility guidelines on August 15 to include anyone who has had multiple sexual partners during the last 14 days. For more information, visit the health department website for your city or state.

There are no treatments specifically for MPV. However, since MPV is genetically similar to smallpox, existing antiviral medications may be used in treatment regimens. The antiviral Tecovirimat (TPOXX) is available under an Investigational New Drug protocol for patients with weakened immune systems who are more likely to develop severe illness from MPV. According to a recent CDC report, MPV patients who were treated with TPOXX reported few adverse effects. Contact your healthcare provider to obtain MPV testing and learn more about potential treatment options.





News



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GLAAD was founded in 1985 to monitor media to ensure accurate and respectful reporting about people diagnosed with HIV/AIDS. 41 years after the first cases were identified, stigma about HIV and misinformation about the virus continue to drive new infections, despite the fact that medical and scientific breakthroughs have made HIV almost completely preventable with PrEP medication against contracting the virus, and advances in treatment for those living with HIV that, when effectively treated, HIV can be suppressed to the point of being undetectable and therefore, untransmittable, U=U. It’s as important as ever to center the facts, whether about HIV, COVID-19, or any threat to public health.