Whether it’s abstinence, avoiding nightclubs, restricting sexual partners, or urging vaccines to be rolled out quickly, Spain’s gay community is on the front lines of the monkeypox virus and taking action.
“I’d rather be cautious about this monkey thing… I’m not having sex anymore, I’m not going to parties anymore, and that’s until I’m vaccinated and have some immunity,” said Antonio, a 35-year-old from Madrid, who uses his last name did not want to name.
Antonio, who often went to nightclubs and sometimes to sex parties, decided to act when cases continued to mount.
Spain reported its second monkeypox-related death on Saturday.
Outside of Africa, the only other such fatality was in Brazil.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 18,000 cases have been detected worldwide outside of Africa since the beginning of May.
Spain is one of the worst affected countries in the world. The country’s Health Ministry’s Emergency and Alert Coordination Center put the number of infected at 4,298.
As cases rise worldwide, the WHO has urged the group currently most affected by the virus – men who have sex with men – to limit their sex partners.
Ahead of a vacation abroad, one vacationer said he would avoid “high-risk situations.”
“I stopped going to sex clubs and didn’t have sex,” the 38-year-old explained.
– Lack of vaccines –
“It’s not like Covid, the vaccine already exists, there’s no need to invent it. If it wasn’t a strange disease, we would have acted more – and faster,” Antonio said.
Like other members of the gay community, he believes the authorities have not done enough.
NGOs have denounced a lack of prevention, a shortage of vaccines and stigma surrounding the virus.
And this despite the fact that the WHO has declared the outbreak of monkeypox a global health emergency.
Early signs of the disease include a high fever, swollen lymph glands, and a chickenpox-like rash.
The disease usually heals on its own after two to three weeks, sometimes it takes a month.
A smallpox vaccine made by Danish drugmaker Bavarian Nordic, sold under the name Jynneos in the US and Imvanex in Europe, has been found to protect against monkeypox.
It took Antonio three weeks to get a vaccination appointment after logging in to the official website at midnight each day.
Dates “pass by like tickets to the next Beyonce concert,” joked another, referring to the gay icon.
So far, Spain has only received 5,300 doses, which arrived at the end of June.
The Spanish Health Ministry declined to comment when contacted by AFP.
– “Anyone can catch it” –
Nahum Cabrera of the NGO FELGTBI+, an umbrella organization of over 50 LGBTQ organizations from across Spain, insists that the most vulnerable people urgently need to be vaccinated.
That doesn’t just mean gay men, but anyone who has “regular sex with multiple partners, as well as those who regularly attend swingers clubs, LGTBI saunas, etc.,” he said.
“There’s a danger that a false sense of security will arise in the general population, and they’ll relax in the thought that they’re safe and that only happens to men who have sex with men,” he said.
The target age group for vaccination is 18-46 year olds, he added.
Older people are vaccinated against smallpox, which was eradicated in Europe in the early 1970s.
“We are facing a health emergency … affecting the LGBTI community, so people consider it insignificant that it is not serious,” said Ivan Zaro of the NGO Imagina MAS (Imagine More).
“This is exactly what happened with HIV 40 years ago.
Image director Javier spent three days in hospital in early July after becoming infected.
After three weeks of isolation, a challenge following the pressures of Covid, he told family and friends.
The 32-year-old, who is in a monogamous relationship, said he still doesn’t know how he caught it.
“I warn everyone,” he said. “It’s a contagious disease, anyone can get it.”
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