A World Health Organization (WHO) adviser said on Monday people should not change their plans to attend the pride parades next month amid the increased spread of monkeypox.
“It’s important that people who want to go out and want to keep going gay pride, LGBTQ+ pride, and plan to do so,” said Andy Seale, strategy advisor at WHO’s Division of Global Programs for HIV, Hepatitis and Sexually Transmitted Diseases . †
WHO experts have pointed to sex at two recent raves in Europe as the leading theory for the spread of the virus, which is endemic to parts of Africa. The agency has said several cases have been reported in men who have sex with men, but cautioned that this may reflect “positive health-seeking behavior” in that demographic, as the cases were identified in sexual health clinics.
Seale said on Monday’s public briefing that the organization has linked business to a number of “social events” in European countries.
“There is no specific transmission route that we should be concerned about,” he said. “It’s really related to the fact that there have been some events that may have exacerbated the current outbreak.”
The WHO released public health guidelines last week on monkey pox, specifically for men who have sex with men. Asked about similarities between the focus on LGBT people in the recent monkeypox outbreak and the HIV epidemic, Seale said the WHO has “learned many lessons” from dealing with HIV messages for years.
“Since this is not a gay disease, the transmission routes are the same for everyone,” Seale said. “The advice is pretty much the same for all people.”
UNAIDS earlier this month condemned monkeypox reporting that included “homophobic and racist stereotyping”.
“It’s challenging to calibrate this, to balance the risk messages and not inadvertently contribute to stigma,” Seale said.
Seale said close physical contact is the main risk factor for monkey pox, so condoms don’t offer any protection. Seale noted that pride parades were of no particular concern because they take place outdoors, while monkey pox has recently been associated with nightclubs and other indoor settings.
“We don’t see any real reason to be concerned about a higher probability of transmission in those contexts, as the parties we were talking about may have been more in confined spaces,” he said.
The WHO has reported 257 confirmed cases of monkeypox and about 120 suspected cases from 23 countries where the virus is not endemic. The international health group said it was not aware of any deaths from the increased spread of the virus.
The virus, which first shows symptoms such as swollen lymph nodes and fever but later causes lesions, is related to but less deadly than smallpox. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggest that the smallpox vaccine is at least 85 percent effective against monkeypox, and the agency has released some doses in response to the outbreak.
Monkeypox spreads through close contact with an infected animal or person, usually through lesions, bodily fluids, contaminated materials and respiratory droplets, which can travel only a few feet.