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Monkeypox: Gay Men Should Reduce Sexual Partners, Advises WHO Chief

Man with monkeypox rash
Via Shutterstock

The U.N. health agency's chief said 98 percent of confirmed cases are among men who have sex with men.


The World Health Organization's director-general has advised gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men to reduce the number of sexual partners they have for the time being in the wake of growing monkeypox outbreaks around the world.

The U.N. agency declared the MPV outbreaks a global emergency over the weekend, which designates the outbreaks as needing a global response to stem the spread of the virus across borders.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general, told reporters in Geneva, Switzerland, that 98 percent of global MPV cases confirmed since May have been among men who have sex with men.

"This is an outbreak that can be stopped, if countries, communities, and individuals inform themselves, take the risks seriously, and take the steps needed to stop transmission and protect vulnerable groups," Tedros urged. "For men who have sex with men, this includes, for the moment, reducing your number of sexual partners, reconsidering sex with new partners, and exchanging contact details with any new partners to enable follow-up if needed."

"In addition to transmission through sexual contact, monkeypox can also be spread in households through close contact between people, such as hugging and kissing, and on contaminated towels or bedding," the WHO chief said. He added that stigma and discrimination around the virus would only contribute to the outbreak.

He recommended that those with MPV isolate and avoid being in close physical contact with others.

Tedros pleaded with social media platforms to help stem misinformation and disinformation from spreading online. He also pushed for equal access to vaccines.

Andy Seale, a WHO adviser on HIV, hepatitis, and sexually transmitted infections, told the Associated Press that experts discovered the outbreaks were "clearly transmitted during sex." However, Seale noted that those experts haven't designated MPV as an STI.

The WHO's advice goes beyond what has been suggested by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC has only recommended individuals avoid skin contact with someone who may have MPV -- which includes avoiding sex or cuddling with someone with MPV.

There have been 4,639 confirmed cases of the virus in the U.S. as of Wednesday afternoon, according to the CDC.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said it will allow 786,000 additional doses of a monkeypox vaccine to be disseminated across the U.S. after approving the license of MPV vaccine producer Bavarian Nordic.

"This action by the FDA is a critical step forward in our plans to strengthen and accelerate our monkeypox response, which includes distributing a safe and effective vaccine to those at highest risk of exposure to monkeypox," U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a statement.

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