Whether it’s abstaining from sex, avoiding nightclubs, limiting sexual partners or pushing for a quick vaccine, Spain’s gay community is on the front line of the monkeypox virus and taking action.
“With this monkey, I’d rather be careful. … I don’t have sex anymore, I don’t go to parties anymore, so I can get vaccinated and have some immunity,” said Antonio, 35. – From Madrid, he refused to reveal his last name.
Antonio, who often went to nightclubs and sometimes to sex parties, decided to act as cases continued to grow.
On Saturday, Spain reported its second death linked to monkeypox.
Outside of Africa, the only other death was in Brazil.
More than 18,000 cases have been detected worldwide outside of Africa since the beginning of May, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
Spain is one of the worst affected countries in the world. The Emergency and Alert Coordination Center at the Ministry of Health estimated the number of injured at 4,298.
With cases increasing globally, the World Health Organization has called on the group currently hardest hit by the virus, men who have sex with men, to limit their sexual partners.
“It’s not like Covid, the vaccine already exists, and there’s no need to invent it,” Antonio said. “If it wasn’t a homeopathic disease, we would have acted more – and faster.”
Like other members of the LGBT community, he believes the authorities haven’t done enough.
NGOs have decried the lack of prevention, the lack of vaccines, and the stigma associated with the virus.
This is despite the World Health Organization declaring the monkeypox outbreak a global health emergency.
Early signs of illness include a high temperature, swollen lymph nodes, and a chickenpox-like rash.
The disease usually goes away on its own after two to three weeks, sometimes up to a month.
A smallpox vaccine from Danish drugmaker Bavaria Nordic, marketed as Jynneos in the United States and Imvanex in Europe, has been found to protect against monkeypox.
It took Antonio three weeks to get an appointment for a vaccination, after logging into the official website daily at midnight.
Another said dates are “going fast for tickets to Beyoncé’s upcoming concert.”
So far, Spain has received only 5,300 doses that arrived in late June.
The Spanish Ministry of Health declined to comment when contacted by AFP.
Anyone can catch it
Nahum Cabrera of the NGO FELGTBI+, an umbrella group of more than 50 LGBTQ organizations from across Spain, insists there is an urgent need to vaccinate those most at risk.
And that doesn’t just mean gay men, but anyone who “regularly has sex with multiple partners, as well as those who frequent swingers clubs, LGTBI saunas, etc.,” he said.
“It risks creating a false sense of security among the general population, and they are comfortable with the belief that they are safe and that this only happens to men who have sex with men,” he said.
He added that the target age group for vaccination is 18 and 46 years.
Older people are vaccinated against smallpox, which was eradicated in Europe in the early 1970s.
“We’re facing a health emergency… that’s affecting the LGBT community, so people think it’s not important, it’s not dangerous,” said Evan Zaro, of the NGO Imagina Mas (Imagine More). “This is exactly what happened 40 years ago with HIV.”
Image director Javier spent three days in the hospital in early July after contracting an infection.
The 32-year-old, who is monogamous, said he still did not know how he was caught.
“I warn everyone,” he said. “It’s a contagious disease, anyone can catch it.”