the gay community concerned about the spread of monkeypox

As the number of people infected with monkeypox increases, concern grows in France. If they are not the only ones concerned, men having homosexual relationships are beginning to fear an epidemic outbreak.

“The testimonials I’ve seen are really scary, the symptoms seem quite extreme… With summer approaching, it’s not a dream.” Settled in Paris, Théo decided to completely stop seeing other men for a while. This 33-year-old ceramist made this choice for fear of contracting monkeypox, at a time when the number of cases has been increasing in Europe and France since the spring.

More than 6,000 cases have now been identified worldwide by the World Health Organization (WHO), including 577 in France as of July 5, according to Public Health France. While the majority of cases identified concern men who have sex with men (MSM), “other vulnerable groups are also at risk,” said a WHO spokeswoman. “There have been a few cases in children (and) people who have compromised immune systems.”

“The symptoms are very scary”

“I have several weddings planned for at least July and I don’t want to take the risk of infecting relatives”, explains the 33-year-old young man to BFMTV.com, who specifies that he is not the only one to change his habits for fear. of the virus. “It’s painful because at the same time we don’t want to ruin our summer and at the same time we fear a kind of wave like that could have been the case with the Covid. We’re fed up.”

Within the gay community, some have simply decided to “take a break” from dating, as several men testify to BFMTV.com. “If only the time to see how the epidemic evolved, or until the vaccination (against smallpox) is open to all.”

Monkeypox is also “a source of great concern” for Valentin*, who points to the lack of information on this disease. “At the sexual level, I prefer to be careful, I put a sudden stop for a fortnight”, explains this young man of 30 years. “It generates a lot of anxiety because the symptoms look very heavy and are very scary.”

“The worst part is that at first we took it with derision,” says Valentin. “We talked about it with distance and second degree. With my friends, we said to each other that after the Covid, it started again with another virus. All that remained very abstract … We did not yet have any concrete cases.

“Now there are testimonials from French people, from Parisians… we hear around us that so and so has been contaminated. We have the impression that it is getting closer without any prevention policy being put in place. So inevitably, we ask ourselves: ‘and if that happens to us, what do we do?'”

“If this happens to us, what do we do?”

While monkeypox usually heals on its own after two or three weeks, the pain caused by its symptoms may require hospitalization. It is thus manifested by flu-like symptoms, rashes, painful lesions on the genitals, and sometimes even on the neck or face.

“It makes you paranoid,” breathes Valentin, for whom “it is clearly a source of concern that crosses the” LGBT + community at the moment. “We do not want to take the risk of being contaminated without knowing it, in particular because of the time of the incubation time, when the symptoms have not yet appeared.”

“People don’t die of it, but it’s still quite serious,” laments this executive in a civil service ministry. Yet nothing is under control. There is no prevention campaign, it gives the impression that we are not interested in it.”

“The public authorities not up to the challenges”

“The reaction of the public authorities is disappointing and not at all up to the stakes”, agrees Nathan. A 33-year-old activist in the Aides association (which fights against HIV), he fears a “wildfire”.

“I’m super worried, we know very well that it can go very quickly, especially since the mode of transmission is very easy. We have no way to protect ourselves. It’s caught by the skin, saliva, contaminated textiles… for once, it is not enough to put on a condom”. Indeed, monkeypox is not a sexually transmitted disease.

Since the start of the spike in cases in Europe, Nathan – who has just been vaccinated in Montreal where he was on vacation – has been lobbying the public authorities to make the vaccine available to men who have sex with men in France. , as is already the case in the United Kingdom or Quebec.

To date, access to it is only open to contact cases, but the High Authority for Health (HAS) finally recommended, this Friday, preventive vaccination for the “groups most exposed to the virus”: “men with sexual relations with men and trans people who have multiple partners, people in a situation of prostitution, professionals working in places of sexual consumption”.

“There is no other solution than to open vaccination to multi-partner MSM,” insisted the general manager of the Aides association, Marc Dixneuf, on BFMTV this Wednesday.

“It’s the scary subject”

In the meantime, like many, Marc, a 46-year-old engineer, has completely stopped “one-night stands”. “It’s not even an option anymore,” he says. And when this Parisian decides to go out all the same, as during the Pride March, it is now with the fear of the virus in the corner of his head. “We are coming out of two years of Covid, so we have developed reflexes in terms of the epidemic and barrier gestures”, he notes.

“In my inner circle, this is the scary subject. Many draw parallels with the HIV epidemic that took place in the 1980s.”

“We have the double penalty because for the moment since it affects many men who have relationships with men, we again risk being singled out and stigmatized”, regrets the forties. Some of the patients who have spoken publicly have also denounced the homophobic cyberbullying of which they have subsequently been victims.

The head of the World Health Organization expressed his concern on Wednesday about “the scale and spread of the virus”. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus announced a convening of the WHO Emergency Committee, which must help him judge the seriousness of the crisis no later than the week of July 18.

* The first name has been changed, at the request of the person concerned.

If symptoms suggestive of monkeypox appear, such as fever and a rash with blisters, the Ministry of Health calls for contact the Samu via 15 who must “direct the patient to a medical consultation”. “It is recommended to self-isolate while awaiting medical advice and to avoid contact with other people.” In Paris, several hospitals offer screenings by appointment.

Jeanne Bulant BFMTV journalist

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