WHO director urges gay community to limit sexual partners during monkeypox outbreak

After declaring the current monkeypox outbreak a global emergency on July 23, the director-general of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, has strongly advised gay, bisexual, and men who have sex with men to reduce their number of sexual partners as the number of cases continue to increase around the world, according to The Advocate

Ghebreyesus told reporters in Geneva, Switzerland, that 98% of the MPV cases that have been confirmed around the world since May have been primarily among men who have sex with men.

“This is an outbreak that can be stopped, if countries, communities, and individuals inform themselves, take the risks seriously, and take the steps needed to stop transmission and protect vulnerable groups,” Ghebreyesus said. “For men who have sex with men, this includes, for the moment, reducing your number of sexual partners, reconsidering sex with new partners, and exchanging contact details with any new partners to enable follow-up if needed.”

Ghebreyesus also urged households, especially those with large amounts of people residing closely together, to be vigilant about monkeypox as well. 

“In addition to transmission through sexual contact, monkeypox can also be spread in households through close contact between people, such as hugging and kissing, and on contaminated towels or bedding,” the WHO chief said. He added that stigma and discrimination around the virus would only contribute to the outbreak.

He has also recommended that those who become infected with MPV isolate and avoid being in close physical contact with others. He also pushed for equal access to the smallpox vaccine, which also works to prevent MPV, while pleading with social media platforms to help restrict the sharing of misinformation on their platforms. 

Though MPV is has not been officially designated as an STI, Andy Seale, a WHO adviser on HIV, hepatitis, and sexually transmitted infections, told the Associated Press that many experts have stated that many of the outbreaks discovered were “clearly transmitted during sex.”

While WHO’s advice explicitly states that sexual contact with various partners should be avoided at this moment in time, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has only recommended individuals avoid skin contact with someone who may have MPV, which ultimately includes avoiding sex or cuddling with someone with MPV. 

As of Wednesday, July 27, 4,639 have been confirmed in the U.S, according to the CDC.The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has allowed 786,000 doses of the vaccine from vaccine producer Bavarian Nordic. 

 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a statement: “This action by the FDA is a critical step forward in our plans to strengthen and accelerate our monkeypox response, which includes distributing a safe and effective vaccine to those at highest risk of exposure to monkeypox.”

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