Is Monkeypox Virus an STI*?
Updated: Aug 22
On July 23, 2022, the World Health Organization declared monkeypox a global health emergency and information is developing daily.
Is the Monkeypox Virus a sexually transmitted infection*?
It is not technically classified as an STI…but it is kinda acting like one.
Monkeypox (MPV) has not yet been proven to spread through the fluids usually exhanged between vaginal, oral or anal sex. MPV could be contracted by anyone through non-sexual close physical contact. However, it is currently spreading rapidly in the US and Europe most often through sexually intimate encounters.
WHAT IS MONKEYPOX?
Monkeypox is a virus that is transmitted from one person to another by close contact with lesions, body fluids, respiratory droplets and contaminated materials such as bedding.
Symptoms could include a painful/itchy rash that may be located on other areas like the hands, feet, chest, face, mouth, on or near the genitals and anus. Other symptoms often appearing before the rash/lesions appear are fever, chills, fatigue and muscle soreness. -WHO
HOW DO YOU GET MONKEYPOX?
Transmission = Close physical contact.
*Unknown: The CDC is still investigating whether it could possibly spread through semen or vaginal fluids and contact with individuals with monkeypox who do not have symptoms.
Knowledge is power in protecting yourself and others.
As MPV spreads so does the misinformation and stigma around it. Stigma, biases and misinformation can stop people from getting treatment and learning about accurate ways to prevent the spread in their communities. The WHO is in the process of renaming Monkeypox to hopefully help redirect misinformation and stigma. Here are some common myths and misinformation circulating:
MYTH #1: Monkeypox Virus is an STI
Basically this assumes that Monkeypox is transmitted only through sexual interactions. This is incorrect and dangerously offers a false sense of safety for people who are not having sex. Any close physical contact with an active case of MPV can spread the infection. Most STI’s can be prevented with a barrier like a condom. However, since cuddling, dancing and rubbing of the skin can transmit MPV then you cannot prevent it by wearing a condom.
Myth #2 : Monkeypox is a gay disease
MPV is NOT limited to men who have sex with men. The virus doesn’t care about your sexual identity. The key element is the close skin to skin contact. The virus will be spreading through sexual and social networks without discrimination.
*FACT* The fact is that MPV currently has the highest infection rates in commuties of gay men. Up to 98% all of the recent cases have been men having sex with men actively and with multiple partners. By nature, any community is a group of people who share spaces, share common behaviors and cultural norms. Right now MPV has taken residence in the gay commuity. Therefore, people sexually or socially involved in tight knit gay commuities are particualry vulnerable and should be alert to vaccine, testing and harm reduction opportunities.
Considering ways to reduce your risk? Check out this document created by a queer led epidemiology team, RESPND-MI. Six Ways We Can Have Safer Sex in the Time of Monkeypox
Myth # 3 - Monkeypox is a NEW Disease
This is not a new virus. The first human case was recorded in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The US has not historically reported MPV and it usually occurs in Central and West Africa.
We are now experiencing an outbreak. Check out the growing MPV numbers in the Monkeypox Outbreak Global Map. As of writing this, the US has over 14,000 confirmed cases most of which have been transmitted though sexual activity.
Currently, MPV testing and vaccines are available but limited. This outbreak can also be contained with continued education and risk reduction. As with any viral spread, you should kindly and carefully educate yourself and your community. Stay tuned to your own health and share your health status with intimate partners.