LGBTQ+ groups across the UK are demanding the government step-up efforts to combat monkeypox or risk it becoming endemic.
Hear advice on Monekypox direct from UK health experts by listening to the Virgin Radio Pride audio links in this article, later or while you read.
Yesterday (August 4) the US government declared a public health emergency over the monkeypox virus.
The move enables federal government more national discretion to help speed up the distribution of vaccines, treatments and federal resources, in an attempt try and curb the spread of the virus and to trigger extra assets to combat the outbreak, with the US health secretary urging ‘every American to take it seriously’.
The US has the most confirmed cases globally, with at least 6,616 known infections recorded by the CDC.
Meanwhile in the UK. there has been more than 2,600 cases of monkeypox recorded so far. Disproportionately, those numbers fall upon queer men, or men who have sex with men, with around 75% of the confirmed cases in London.
The Department of Health & Social Care (DHSC) says it is working “rapidly” to vaccinate those at risk, adding: “We have procured over 150,000 vaccines, and we’re working with partners – including the NHS and UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) – to share targeted, non-stigmatising communications with the LGBTQ+ community.”
In a joint letter (August 4) addressed to UK Health Secretary Steve Barclay, LGBTQ+ groups from across the political spectrum have joined forces to demand the government increase efforts to combat monkeypox or risk it becoming endemic.
The note is co-signed by sexual health charities including the Terrence Higgins Trust and says the government must prioritise communication and vaccination.
“We are united as LGBT+ groups from across political parties in asking that the government treat the monkeypox outbreak as a public health emergency,” the letter signed by the LGBT+ groups for Conservatives, Labour, Liberal Democrats, Greens and Scottish National Party said.
“We cannot afford to allow monkeypox to become endemic in the UK. Luckily, we have the tools required to stop this outbreak and prevent further risk to health now. We ask that you do so urgently.”
(listen above for more info on the virus, symptoms and treatments)
“Without urgent action, we risk monkeypox becoming endemic in the UK. This poses a serious risk to health and will exacerbate the health inequalities already experienced by gay and bisexual men and other men who have sex with men”, the letter continues.
“Vaccinating those most at risk of monkeypox must be a priority if we are to stand a chance of preventing the virus from becoming endemic in the UK.”
The letter also requests the government deliver clearer messaging aimed at men who have sex with men about the symptoms of the virus and what steps people should take if they are concerned over potential infection.
Unlike where we found ourselves with with COVID, we have the benefit of pre-existing vaccines which can be used to prevent monkeypox, such as an antiviral drug called Imvanex, which is approved for treating smallpox. The UKHSA say the drug helps protect people who are potentially exposed to monkeypox since the two viruses belong to the same family.
As of August 1, NHS England say over 14,000 people had received shots of Imvanex.
The UKHSA say an extra 100,000 vaccines will arrive in the UK by September, with a target of delivering the first 20,000 for use by the NHS this month. Under current guidance most people will receive a single dose (which, similar to COVID, may change as the situation does and more will then be required).
Some sexual health experts have warned the number of vaccines actually required to combat the outbreak is closer to around 250,000 and recommended that people should be given two doses for maximum protection.
Speaking on Virgin Radio Pride, leading monkeypox expert Dr, Sam from 56 Dean Street (the sexual health service you’ll often see quoted by charities and media while dispensing advice on the vaccine), said:
“We’re still getting a lot of epidemiological data and what we think is that the virus was in the right place at the right time and it’s just kind of been spread within that community, mainly through sexual contact, kind of 95%.”
“It’s not a sexually transmitted illness in the same though that we talk about chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, but it is a transmittable illness. So for example, it can be passed on through the act of sex because of the skin to skin contact.”
“Equally, if you’re rolling around in bed, not having sex with somebody who is covered in monkeypox, then you can get it in that way as well. You would probably wouldn’t class that as a sexual contact, but it’s the skin to skin contact, which normally is present during sex.”
Speaking to host Shivani Dave, Dr. Sam spoke further about vaccine eligibility, symptoms to be aware of, preventative measures, plus more crucial facts about the virus.
Sexual health is not new territory for LGBTQ+ people and understanding, along with awareness, is critical to containing and preventing further spread. As misinformation and harmful rhetoric is rife, it is hugely important that we, as a community, are fully educated and informed.
In the audio links below, Dr. Sam busts open the myths around monkeypox, as well as dispensing important information about HIV and shares his top sexual health tips. The information contained is not location specific and is helpful no matter where you are.
Take a listen today:
Listen to Virgin Radio Pride UK online, via the Virgin Radio app, in the Apple or Google store, or via DAB Digital radio in London and Scotland. You can also catch the Virgin Radio Pridecast on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or wherever else you get your podcasts.