It Berlin had a delightful Christopher Street day when we danced, drank, laughed and sang our way at the Brandenburg Gate in celebration of LGBTQ+ pride. A wonderful atmosphere for a city renowned for its social freedoms after two years of pandemic-induced disruption.
But everywhere there were little signs and reminders of monkeypox, the less deadly but still serious cousin of the smallpox virus that is unexpectedly making its way around the Americas, Europe, and Australia, and is predominantly sexual with men. Affecting men who are having relationships.
Recently recovered people had stories about confused diagnoses and treatments and a disorganized vaccination program.
Word on the street was that there is a very limited supply of monkeypox vaccines in Berlin, and that people with active cases and any close contacts eventually had to spend days trying to track down a dose, often to doctors and medical clinics. no avail.
They are reflected in the guidance of the account german officer Given that the concept of vaccination is yet to be worked out and those seeking it should contact their family doctor or local health department.
Clearly, Berlin is ready to receive 80 thousand doses of monkeypox vaccine at the end of July,
Surveying the crowd, that may be too little, too late. People had traveled from all over Europe and the world Christopher Street Day over the weekend. They’ll be letting their hair down, then going home. Other countries should prepare their own.
As I hugged a friend, I saw two large scars on his face, which he would later explain were the remains of large pimples that had flared up, crusted over, and eventually healed, This indicated that he was no longer contagious. The scars will probably never fade though, so a bushy shave attempts to hide them.
Elaborating on his experience, he told me about reddened tonsils and excruciating lymphadenopathy. “I didn’t know we had so many lymph nodes!” he wondered.
I did I am an Australian medical student halfway through my degree, taking a year off to breathe after two years of epidemiological studies and my own health crisis. I push the upper-limits of “mature-aged” in medical school, getting into the business late in life after a career in LGBTQ+ health.
Berlin has long been a second home of sorts.
As the march progressed, amidst the raging technocracy and the bustling rainbow, I heard more stories. In the absence of smallpox on the body, the man’s fever was attributed solely to covid or flu – rectal lesion centered in unclear diagnosis. Rectal lesions however may seem to be an unwanted anomaly.
This The New Yorker article described a similar scenario resulting in screams of pain. Spent hours while going to the bathroom and trying to keep the area clean.
The mental health impact of forcing people to isolate further was also a topic of conversation, with 21 days generally recommended In the event of a suspected infection. I shudder at the thought of its effects on the socially and economically vulnerable, especially after the last few years.
By the time we arrived at the Siegesaule—the name of Berlin’s victory column and prolific, local queer rags—I had seen more than a few suspicious physical signs. A mark here, a rash there.
“Was that a beak or a pimple?” I was surprised as I brushed off a bunch of less worn revelers. I had a feeling that masks and sanitizers weren’t going to cut it this time, and I didn’t feel hungry for more lockdown in this rush.
In 2021, as part of my medical study, I spoke to Australian gay and bisexual men about their experiences with the COVID-19 pandemic. Among the many poignant findings, to which I keep coming back, is that many had previously experienced an epidemic in which HIV/AIDS ravaged the community since the early 1980s.
In the Western world, the condition is now more manageable due to breakthroughs in testing and treatment, but HIV/AIDS continues to devastate parts of sub-Saharan Africa.
The pain of that first pandemic experience was reflected in my interviews, in which participants expressed anger and resentment as they compared the two pandemic responses. These sentiments have also been reflected in research from Austria, Germany, the United States and Canada.
a man in ontario explained: “There is panic and crisis of COVID-19 so every health system steps in and starts working. This did not happen in the AIDS epidemic. We had to fight, and fight, and fight and fight, to get the most basic of things for people. ,
COVID-19 was in the second phase for many gay and bisexual men and men who have sex with men more widely, not to mention our friends, families, and partners.
with World Health Organization’s decision to declare monkeypox a global health emergency on 23 July, looks like we can reach the third round. The difference this time is that a viable vaccine is already available to treat monkeypox, as well as antiviral drugs to limit its severity.
We don’t have to wait for biomedical science to work its magic, and we don’t have to fight and fight and fight – we just have the means to solve it.
Importantly, despite currently affecting men who have sex with men, Monkeypox is not strictly a sexually transmitted infection,
Rather, it arises from close contact and is spread through respiratory droplets and vesicle fluid that gets on the body or clothing. Transmission of congenital monkeypox is also possible from mother to child in utero.
It would be a mistake to write it off as a gay disease, in the same way that gay-associated immune deficiency syndrome (GRID) and gay cancer serve as early iterations of what we now call HIV/AIDS. Viruses are not like humans, they do not make any moral judgments about who they are sleeping with. They infect organisms regardless of sexuality.
One of the hard-won lessons from HIV/AIDS was summarized on 23 July by the Director-General of WHO, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who said that “Stigma and discrimination can be as dangerous as any virus.,
Let’s just get the job done this time, and make sure we don’t blindly scare another generation of marginalized men as disease devastates their communities.
Roland Bull is a medical student, author and stand-up comedian with an interest in sexual health, particularly among the LGBTQ+ community living in Canberra.