Mary Zwicker:

As the fear of COVID-19 begins to ease up and life regains some of its normalcy, the World Health Organization has sounded the alarm on a new threat to society, Monkeypox, an epidemic that has been identified as spreading primarily through the gay community.

Monkeypox is a disease similar to smallpox, although less deadly. Originating in West and Central Africa, it is characterized by fever, achiness, fatigue, and red bumps or sores. Up to May 2022, there had been only seven recorded cases of Monkeypox within the United Kingdom between 2018 and 2021. However, the WHO reports that this outbreak has now spread to multiple European and American countries, as well as Australia, and not through the usual means.     A British study of the first 152 men with the monkeypox infection, 151 were “gay, bisexual, or other men who have sex with men (GBMSM), or reported same sex contact.”

Since mid-May, outbreaks of Monkeypox have been reported in various non-endemic countries, with seemingly no travel connections among most that can be traced back to Africa. According to the WHO, this current outbreak of Monkeypox has reportedly been transmitted “largely through sexual activity, primarily involving men who have sex with men.” Two raves early in May, are being held accountable for the current outbreak. The Grand Canary gay pride festival in Spain was attended by up to 80,000 people between May 5-15, and is one of the events that is being attested as a main spreader of Monkeypox. Darklands, a fetish festival in Antwerp, Belgium, held from May 5-8, is identified as the other contributor.

According to the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the usual method of transmission is through bites or scratches from a diseased animal, contact with an infected animal or products made from them, or through “direct contact with body fluids or sores on an infected person or with materials that have touched body fluids or sores, such as clothing or linens.”

The CDC warns that Monkeypox can be transmitted through “respiratory secretions during prolonged, face-to-face contact. Monkeypox can spread during intimate contact between people, including during sex, as well as activities like kissing, cuddling, or touching parts of the body with monkeypox sores.” It also reported that “early data suggest that gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men make up a high number of cases.” Noting that “skin-to-skin contact” is high-risk, the CDC warns that “back rooms, saunas and sex clubs where there is minimal or no clothing and where intimate sexual contact occurs” increase the “likelihood of spreading monkeypox.” CDC advises people in such settings to “masturbate together at a distance of at least six feet.”

Despite the apparent risks, the WHO has given the green light to various gay pride events throughout the coming months, claiming that it is less of a risk and more of an opportunity to teach the gay community about the dangers of Monkeypox. Andy Seale, one of the WHO’s strategic advisors said that it is “important that people who want to go out and celebrate gay pride” be able to do so, despite the outbreak.

Conservative journalist Paul Joseph Watson criticized Seale, stating that “the WHO’s response clearly indicates that not being seen to be ‘homophobic’ is apparently more important than stopping the spread of viral diseases.” He decries the WHO’s decision as a double standard, reminding his readers of May 2020, “when governments had imposed draconian lockdowns that stopped people from attending the funerals of their loved ones, but millions of Black Lives Matter supporters were encouraged to gather in cities across the western world.”

As of June 17, there were 168 cases in Canada, with 141 of those in Quebec.