A World Health Organization (WHO) adviser said on Monday that people should not change their plans to attend Pride parades next month amid increased monkeypox circulation.
“It’s important that people who want to go out and celebrate gay pride, LGBTQ+ pride, continue to go and plan to do so,” said Andy Seale, Strategy Advisor at the Global Department of HIV Programs, l Hepatitis and Sexually Transmitted Infections WHO. .
WHO experts have singled out sex at two recent raves in Europe as the main theory for the spread of the virus, which is endemic in parts of Africa. The agency said several cases had been reported in men who have sex with men, but warned that this could reflect “positive health-seeking behavior” in this demographic, given that cases were identified at sexual health clinics.
Seale told Monday public briefing that the organization has linked cases to a number of “social events” in European countries.
“There is no specific route of transmission that we need to worry about,” he said. “It’s really tied to the fact that there were a couple of events that maybe amplified the current outbreak.”
The WHO released public health guidelines on monkeypox last week specifically for men who have sex with men. Asked about the similarities between the focus on LGBT people during the recent monkeypox outbreak and the HIV epidemic, Seale said the WHO had “a lot of lessons learned” from managing HIV messaging during years.
“Since this is not a homosexual disease, the routes of transmission are common to everyone,” Seale said. “The advice is pretty much the same for everyone.”
UNAIDS earlier this month denounced reports of monkeypox that included “homophobic and racist stereotypes”.
“It’s hard to calibrate that, balance the risk messaging and not unintentionally contribute to stigma,” Seale said.
Seale said close bodily contact is the biggest risk factor for monkeypox, so condoms won’t provide protection. Seale noted that Pride parades were not a particular concern as they took place outdoors, while monkeypox has recently been linked to nightclubs and other indoor environments.
“We see no real reason to be concerned about the increased likelihood of transmission in these settings, as the parties we referred to may have been in more enclosed spaces,” he said.
The WHO has reported 257 confirmed cases of monkeypox and around 120 suspected cases in 23 countries where the virus is not endemic. The international health group said it was not aware of any deaths caused by 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 smallpox but less deadly. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests the smallpox vaccine is at least 85% effective against monkeypox, and the agency has released some doses in response to the outbreak.
Monkeypox is spread through close contact with an infected animal or person, usually through lesions, body fluids, contaminated materials, and respiratory droplets, which can only travel a few feet.