The LGBT community in Spain is fighting the monkeypox virus head-on and is doing so by abstaining from sexual activity, staying away from nightclubs, restricting their number of partners, and advocating for a quick vaccine rollout.
Antonio, a 35-year-old man from Madrid who would not provide his last name, said, “With this monkey thing, I prefer to be careful… I don’t have sex any more, I don’t go to parties, and that’s till I’m vaccinated and have some protection.”
As the number of incidents grew, Antonio, who frequently attended nightclubs and occasionally sex parties, made the decision to take action.
Spain reported its second monkeypox-related death on Saturday.
The only other comparable death outside of Africa occurred in Brazil.
Since the beginning of May, more than 18,000 cases have been discovered worldwide outside of Africa, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
One of the worst-affected nations is Spain. The emergency and alert coordination center for the nation’s health ministry estimated that 4,298 persons were affected.
The WHO has urged males who have intercourse with other men, the group now most afflicted by the virus, to limit their sexual partners as cases spread throughout the globe.
One traveler promised to stay away from “risky circumstances” before his international vacation.
The 38-year-old said, “I didn’t go to sex clubs anymore and I didn’t have sex either.
Lack of vaccines
“This is not like Covid, the vaccine already exists, there’s no need to invent it. If it wasn’t a queer disease, we would have acted more — and faster,” said Antonio.
Like other members of the gay community, he believes the authorities have not done enough.
NGOs have denounced a lack of prevention, a shortage of vaccines and stigmatisation linked to the virus.
This is despite the WHO declaring the monkeypox outbreak a global health emergency.
Early signs of the disease include a high fever, swollen lymph glands and a chickenpox-like rash.
The disease usually heals by itself after two to three weeks, sometimes taking a month.
A smallpox vaccine from Danish drug maker Bavarian Nordic, marketed under the name 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 to be vaccinated, after logging on to the official website every day at midnight.
Appointments “are going as fast as tickets to the next Beyonce concert”, another joked referring to the gay icon.
So far, Spain has only received 5,300 doses which arrived in late June.
The Spanish health ministry declined to comment when contacted by AFP.
‘Anyone can catch it’
Nahum Cabrera of the FELGTBI+ NGO, an umbrella group of over 50 LGBTQ organisations from all over Spain, insists there is an urgent need to vaccinate those most at risk.
That means not just gay men, but anyone who has “regular 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 relax into thinking that they are safe and that it only happens to men who have sex with men,” he said.
The target age group for vaccination is those aged between 18 and 46, he added.
Older people are vaccinated against smallpox which was eradicated in Europe in the early 1970s.
“We are facing a health emergency… that affects the LGBTI community, so people think it is insignificant, that it is not serious,” said Ivan Zaro, of the Imagina MAS (Imagine More) NGO.
“Exactly the same thing happened with HIV 40 years ago.
Javier, the director of the images, was ill for three days at the beginning of July.
He informed his family and friends after spending three weeks alone, which was difficult following the demands of Covid.
The monogamous 32-year-old claimed he was still unsure of how he had contracted it.
He said, “I warn everyone.” “Anyone can get it because it’s an infectious disease.”