LONDON, 19August 2022 – In 2022, there is a growing number of monkeypox cases in countries that do not typically report them. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), transmission between humans involves “close contact with respiratory secretions, skin lesions of an infected person or recently contaminated objects”1. Monkeypox can spread during intimate sexual contact including oral, anal, and vaginal sex or by touching the genitals of a person with monkeypox, hugging, massaging, kissing, or talking closely, and touching fabrics and objects during sex that were used by a person with monkeypox, such as bedding, towels and sex toys.2The WHO has indicated that monkeypox has been found in semen, however, it is not clear yet if it can be transmitted through semen and vaginal fluids. Both the WHO and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have noted cases mainly, but not exclusively, have been identified amongst men who have sex with men (MSM) seeking care in primary care and sexual health clinics.3
The Global Advisory Board for Sexual Health and Wellbeing (GAB) calls to avoid stigmatizing language targeting MSM. Monkeypox (MXP) is not a “gay disease”, it can affect anyone regardless of age, race, ethnicity, gender identity or sexual orientation. Since it can be transmitted through close physical contact in sexual relationships, the GAB calls on service providers and educators providing sexual health services, counseling, or information to raise awareness about the current outbreak based on facts of the disease and to encourage conversations about it between partners in the context of sexual wellbeing. Confidence is key for people to have conversations with sexual partners about potential risks, including monkeypox transmission. The GAB also calls online platforms, such as apps where people connect to engage in dating or sexual interactions, to raise awareness about monkeypox in a non-discriminatory manner, by sending alerts to users and/or including specific educational resources.
Health departments across the world should also be incorporating facts about the role that close physical contact during sexual relationships can play in the transmission of monkeypox. The stigma around sex prevented health authorities to address sexual relationships and sexual pleasure in the context of COVID-19, for example. Innovation to prevent and respond to epidemics and pandemics should not leave considerations about sexual networks and sexual health aside.
The incubation period of MPX is usually 6 to 13 days following exposure but can range from 5 to 21 days. Although most people recover within weeks, severe complications may occur.Those with MPX may experience fever, headache, back pain, muscle aches, lack of energy and enlarged glands followed by asecond phase, which typically occurs 1 to 3 days after fever subsides with the appearance of a rash presenting in sequential stages –macules, papules, vesicles, pustules, umbilication before crusting over and desquamating over a period of 2 to 3 weeks.Treatment options are antivirals, and managing of symptoms. A vaccine is available, however it is still limited to a few countries.4Current vaccination efforts have focused on men who have sex with men. Anyone eligible to get vaccinated should try to do it as soon as possible.
Notes to editors
Advocating greater attention to the relationship between sexual health, sexual rights and sexual pleasure. The Global Advisory Board for Sexual Health and Wellbeing (GABSHW) was convened by Reckitt. The views expressed on this platform are those of the boardand not of Reckitt.
4.https://www.who.int/publications/i/item/WHO-MPX-Clinical-and-IPC-2022.1. See WHO Clinical management and infection prevention and control for monkeypox: Interim rapid response guidance, 10 June 2022