February 1, 2024

How Gay Men Saved Us From MMPOX

Last summer, just six months ago, mpox -- the disease that used to be called monkeypox -- was ravaging gay communities. Cases were exploding, the vaccine was in short supply and the government had declared a health emergency.

But as this outbreak raged, many queer men took matters into their own hands. They began their own Vaccination Army, educating each other and spreading the word on a topic that is normally taboo. Their efforts slowed the outbreak and now new cases are coming in at a trickle. The CDC says they are due to more people getting the vaccine and to better infection control measures. But a lot of people are crediting the queer community for helping them get to this point.

At the peak of the mpox outbreak, men who have sex with men and those who live with HIV were disproportionately affected. And while they are the ones who have the highest risk of catching and transmitting the virus, the public health messages that accompanied the onset of this outbreak weren’t targeted to them.

While the CDC did eventually begin to disseminate transmission-prevention messaging targeted at GBMSM, it came too late for some. And the message itself was a little too long-winded for others, including some who were already living with preexisting stigma and barriers to healthcare. The lack of targeting and the long-winded transmission-prevention messaging may have had a negative effect on uptake for these groups.

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