Mayfield: Thank the gay community for handling M-pox so you don’t have to

Apr 20, 2023, 11:52 AM

A patient is inoculated with the monkeypox vaccine during a vaccination clinic at the OASIS Wellnes...

A patient is inoculated with the monkeypox vaccine during a vaccination clinic at the OASIS Wellness Center, Friday, Aug. 19, 2022, in New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

(AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

Remember M-pox or monkeypox as it was previously called? No, doesn’t sound familiar, you say? Good, because it’s not really a threat to you anymore. And you can text your gay best friend to thank them for that.

You see, in July of last year, an outbreak of M-pox was in full swing, with 16,000 cases in 75 countries. It was spreading almost exclusively among gay and bi men, and it was spreading through intimate contact. Very intimate contact, if you catch my drift.

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At the time, however, federal health authorities and the media were largely trying to bury that fact; they didn’t want to stereotype, offend, or propagate further hate.

So the messaging was very muddy. It wasn’t reaching its intended audience, and M-pox was spreading fast.

And then the community that learned how to fight another epidemic not that long ago — remember, HIV AIDS — took matters into its own hands.

Those who got the incredibly painful and ugly pox started showing people and telling them about it on social media. At-risk men stopped, almost immediately, having intimate contact. It happened in droves, and it went on for months. LGBTQ+ healthcare providers started pushing for better, faster testing, and it worked.

By the early fall, a vaccine was being distributed, and men were lining up, sometimes for hours at a moment’s notice, to get the two shots required. We, and I say this as a gay man myself, who was vaccinated, talked about it a lot.

I did a commentary in this space. I posted it on Instagram and retweeted it on Twitter. I wasn’t alone. We all worked together to stop M-pox before it spread further.

So where is M-pox today?

Earlier this year, the official federal emergency declaration ended. Case counts dropped from 450 per day in August last summer to fewer than five a day as of February 2023. And basically zero today.

This leads us back to the beginning; remember M-pox? It’s great that you don’t and that you don’t have to.

Maybe next time we face a new health threat, we could look at that as a way to fight it, as a model to follow, and not how we all botched COVID-19 so badly.

And in the meantime, thank your LGBTQ+ friends for stepping up themselves to protect you because M-pox wasn’t going to stay just in our community; it was headed for yours next.

Listen to Seattle’s Morning News with Dave Ross and Colleen O’Brien weekday mornings from 5 – 9 a.m. on KIRO Newsradio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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Mayfield: Thank the gay community for handling M-pox so you don’t have to