Monkeypox (MPV): Community Update, August 10th

One Colorado is advocating directly with local, statewide, and national partners to ensure the health and safety of LGBTQ+ Coloradans. Updates will be sent via email and posted here on our website in a timely manner as relevant information is available to keep our community up-to-date on resources, vaccine availability, testing sites, and more. We will refer to the Monkeypox Virus as MPV due to harmful and stigmatizing effects of using the former term. To read more about why we are making this decision, look here.

One Colorado has been keeping a close eye on MPV and how it has been affecting our community since May. We have had conversations internally about how to be thoughtful and intentional in our messaging around MPV because we know so well that stigmatizing a disease harms not only our community but everyone. We believe that it is important to share accurate and complete information as free from bias as we can. Here are some things that we know right now.

What do we know about MPV?

Unlike COVID-19, MPV is not a new virus and has been studied for a long time, so there are a lot of things we know about it – including:

  • MPV is less contagious and less deadly than newer viruses like COVID-19 
  • MPV responds to treatments and vaccines originally developed for smallpox
  • Symptoms of MPV may appear “flu-like” (fever, headache, muscle aches, swollen lymph nodes, and exhaustion) and/or  present as a rash or skin bumps that can look like syphilis, herpes, blisters, or even acne.
  • Nothing about the virus limits it to only men who have sex with men (not all of whom identify as gay or bisexual), but it is primarily spreading among this community

Who is “high risk” for MPV, and what does that mean?

  • 98% of new MPV cases across 16 countries are among men who have sex with men (MSM). Because of this data, and in an effort to spread awareness among our community, public health departments have put MSM in a “high risk” category for getting MPV. This means MSM may be more likely to get MPV than someone else. At this time, there is not a consensus on why MPV is spreading among our community and we could not find any data to suggest that MSM are at higher risk for any physiological reasons. 
  • It’s important to be clear that there is nothing inherent to our sexual orientations or gender identities that put us at higher risk for getting MPV. However MPV is spreading among our community, so we need to know how to take precautions and when to seek medical care.

Trans, nonbinary, and GNC folks + MPV: 

It absolutely should be acknowledged that transgender, nonbinary, and gender-nonconforming folks “may also be more vulnerable in the context of the current outbreak” as reported by the World Health Organization (WHO). We care about our trans and GNC community deeply and want to provide you with the best information. And, there is not clear data about risk. Because MPV is spreading through close contact among the LGBTQ+ community, we believe trans and GNC folks need to be part of the conversation.

What behaviors put me more at risk?

Keeping yourself safe and reducing your risk can look like:

  • Have up to date contact information for partners so you can contact them if you test positive for MPV. They may be able to get a preventive vaccine. 
  • Have sex in a well-lit place where you can see if your partner(s) have a rash on the part of their body that will be in contact with yours. 
  • Talk openly about whether your partner(s) have felt sick or noticed new bumps or a rash recently. This is not a “sexy” conversation, for sure, but until more vaccines are available, this is a way to slow the spread and stay safe.
  • Consider keeping your shirt on at clubs. So far, most of the cases seem to be from direct sexual contact. And, we are still learning. We know that any skin-to-skin contact with MPV rash or bumps can spread the virus.
  • Don’t share your towels or clothes at the gym, beach, etc.

What about vaccines and testing?

Currently, vaccines are in limited supply and high demand. As of today, the best place to access more information about the Jynneos vaccine or testing locations is on CDPHE’s website. 

One Colorado will continue to have conversations internally, with community, and with statewide response leaders like CDPHE to keep understanding how MPV is impacting our community. We don’t have answers, but we are here with you all and we will keep learning, listening, and advocating for LGBTQ+ Coloradans. We will follow up in the coming days and weeks with more information and resources as they are available, including ways to access specific MPV testing sites, vaccine supply and more. The health of our community depends on us continuing to take care of ourselves and each other. As always, we are so proud and honored to be in community with you.

Do you have questions, concerns, or a story to share about your MPV experience? Let us know. While we don’t have all the answers, we are working with local, statewide, and national experts to learn and share accurate information and resources. We are in this together.