hMPVX: What Gay, Queer and Trans Folks Should Know

Monkeypox, known as hMPXV, is spreading in the Portland area. It almost always spreads by direct skin-to-skin contact. There is an FDA licensed vaccine for hMPXV, but supply is limited. While we wait for Oregon to get more doses of vaccine, we can take steps to limit the spread of this infection.

Vaccines

Anyone who has had close contact with someone with possible or confirmed hMPVX in Oregon or in another location in the prior 14 days is eligible for vaccination. Please contact your healthcare provider for information regarding vaccines, as well as testing.

A limited number of vaccines for hMPXV (Monkeypox) are available for people who may have been exposed to someone with a confirmed hMPXV ase. Please contact your healthcare provider for information regarding vaccines, as well as testing. You are eligible for the vaccine if you are 18 years or older if you answer yes to any of the following questions:

During the past 14 days, have you: 

  • Had close contact with someone with possible or confirmed hMPXV?
  • Had anonymous sex with more than one person?
  • Exchanged sex for money, drugs, or something else?

OR

  • Have you been diagnosed with rectal gonorrhea, rectal chlamydia, or syphilis in the past 3 months? 

Reduce Your Risk

The risk comes by contact with skin that has rashes or sores. Sores can be anywhere on the body, including hands, face, genital area, around the anus or butt, and in the throat.

  • Have up to date contact information for partners so you can contact them if you test positive for hMPXV. They may be able to get a preventive vaccine. 
  • If you have sex with a new partner or partners: 
    • Have sex in a well-lit place where you can see if someone has a rash on the part of their body that will be in contact with yours. 
    • Talk openly about whether they have felt sick or noticed new bumps or a rash recently. This is not a “sexy” conversation, for sure, but until we get a lot more vaccines available, this is a way to stop transmission.
  • If the suggestions above won’t work, consider taking a break from back-room sex and sex club sex until we have community vaccine.
  • Consider “keeping your shirt on” at clubs. So far, most of the cases seem to be from direct sexual contact, but we are still learning, and we know that any skin-to-skin contact with the rash or bumps can spread disease.
  • Don’t share towels or clothes at the gym, beach, etc.

Who Should Watch Carefully For Rash or Sores

  • If you start to feel sick with a fever, headache, chills, weakness, fatigue, or swollen lymph nodes. 
    • This can be the start of many viral infections, including COVID or hMPXV. Not everyone with hMPXV will start with these symptoms. Some people only have a rash. This rash can be quite painful.
  • If you have been in close contact with:
    • Someone who has been diagnosed with hMPXV
    • Someone who is waiting on test results for hMPXV
    • Someone with symptoms 
  • If you have been at an event or venue as employees or as guests, and had:
    • Skin-to-skin contact with others. Remember: skin to skin is NOT only genital area contact–the rash can be on hands and other parts of the body, so things like holding hands with someone who has the rash on their hands, dancing with skin touching, cuddling, massage transmit it. 
    • Contact with used towels, sheets, clothing or surfaces that others may have used or touched. 

We also recommend individuals watch for signs of infection if, in the last 14 days, they have had multiple or anonymous sex partners.

How To Identify the Rash, Bumps or Sores

  • Look at your whole body in good lighting. Use a mirror to look at your back. Check chest, belly, armpits, back, feet, hands, face, neck. Pay attention to anything that looks like a new bug bite, pimple, ingrown hair, or rash.
  • Use a hand mirror and flashlight or desk lamp, or have a partner, friend or housemate help look around the anus and genital area. Shine the light into the mirror instead of directly on the skin. It’s easier to aim, less glare.
  • Check your body regularly, such as before or after bathing, if you believe you are at-risk for hMPXV infection.
  • Here are pictures of typical rash/sores. Sores can be itchy or incredibly painful, and can be flat or raised, fluid-filled (like little blisters or large pimples) or not. Classic sores have an indent in the middle, but not everyone will develop a classic rash.
  • If the sores you have are in your throat or rectum, they may cause significant pain but not be visible. 

If you see a rash or have other symptoms isolate from others until you can get tested and your results are back and are negative. 

  • Stay at home except to seek medical care. 
  • If you live with others, wear a mask in common spaces.
  • use a separate bathroom if possible and if not, clean it frequently with a germicidal wipe, and prevent others from touching your bedding, towels, clothes, etc. 
  • Going outside for recreation is safe and encouraged, but avoid contact with others, especially in indoor spaces, public transportation, or anywhere else your skin may come in contact with surfaces others may touch.
     

Testing

If you get tested, you can find out if you need to worry about giving this to others or if you need treatment—most will not. It can also help rule out other treatable infections, like syphilis. Also, getting tested means we know more accurately how much hMPXV is in our community and where it is spreading. This will help public health get more support for our community, including vaccines to help protect community members. If you choose not to test: You must stay home and away from other people until the last scab comes off and a fresh layer of intact skin has formed. Usually between 2-4 weeks.

Stay in Touch

Also look to Cascade AIDS Project, Oregon Health Authority, your sexual health provider, and CDC for new information. When there is enough preventive vaccine available for people at risk who are not yet exposed, we will put the word out and make it available as fast as possible.