Why monkeypox should alarm the straight community: Op-Ed

Aug 12, 2022, 7:41 AM | Updated: 9:46 am
Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVN) Sophia Mineros (L) administers a dose of the Jynneos monkeypox vaccine to a person at an L.A. County vaccination site (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

I’m a queer man, and I’m deeply worried about monkeypox. A majority of you reading this are likely neither a queer man nor are you worried about this virus. Give me the next two minutes, and I’m going to try to convince you why you should be.

First, just because this excruciatingly painful disease isn’t spreading in your population yet … doesn’t mean it won’t. Look at HIV/AIDS. It largely started in one community — mine — and then spread. That’s because many men who have intimate contact with men also have intimate contact with women, and for that matter … people at every stop along the gender rainbow.

There is nothing intrinsic about gay, bisexual, or queer men that precipitates monkeypox. Thus, there is nothing biologically special about anyone else that will protect against monkeypox in the future. You can get it too.

Second, health leaders have been slow in responding to this crisis, and when they have responded, they’ve made mistake after mistake.

In late spring, when the first few cases began appearing here in the U.S., vaccines should have been immediately available – we had them. Instead, many public health agencies took a wait-and-see approach.

And the virus spread.

As it did. Men went looking for tests and confirmation. Red tape kept those men from getting either tests or results on time.

And the virus spread.

In June – Pride Month – health messaging began, but it was vague and contradictory. How was it spreading? Who was at risk? Should I get tested? Can I be vaccinated? Worst of all, there was a hesitancy to frankly tell people that temporarily reducing intimate contact or even abstaining would stem the spread. I understand that bigots will use such warnings to shame and hate, but bigots will use anything to shame or hate. Let’s at least give the best science to the communities who need to hear it. We didn’t. We aren’t.

And the virus spread.

Now gay, bi, queer men are taking it upon themselves to reduce exposure, crowdsource vaccine availability, and share the latest science. I believe health leaders want to do the right thing, but they need to hear that being honest with those at most risk about what the risk really is … isn’t homophobic. It’s the opposite: empowerment.

And if my community is empowered, we — in true partnership with health leaders – can stop this before it crosses over into your community. Because if we don’t course correct now, it will. Then, you’ll have no choice but to worry.

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Why monkeypox should alarm the straight community: Op-Ed