From the Washington Post news section:
Sex is a major driver of the global outbreak. But health officials and longtime HIV activists say calls for abstinence don’t work.
By Fenit Nirappil and Amrita Jayakumar
August 4, 2022 at 6:54 a.m. EDT
Jason, left, and Sergio pose for a portrait July 31 at the Dore Alley kink and fetish festival in San Francisco. The festival took place days after city officials declared a state of emergency over monkeypox, which has disproportionately affected gay and bisexual men.
SAN FRANCISCO — Thousands of gay men clad in leather, latex — and often much less — partied along Folsom Street here last weekend during the annual kink and fetish festival. Even after the city had just declared the monkeypox outbreak striking its gay community a health emergency — one day after the World Health Organization urged men to sleep with fewer men to reduce transmission — San Francisco public health officials made no attempt to rein in festivities or warn attendees to have less sex.
As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention weighs whether to recommend limiting sexual partners, health officials in San Francisco, Chicago, New York and other U.S. cities battling surges disproportionately sickening gay men are avoiding calls for sexual restraint, wary of further stigmatizing same-sex intimacy.
Public health authorities typically emphasize safer sex over abstinence to prevent the spread of diseases through intimate contact. But monkeypox is presenting new challenges in calibrating the right message to stop the rare virus from becoming endemic while limiting government intrusion into the bedroom.
“If people want to have sex, they are going to have sex,” said California state Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), who is involved in the city’s monkeypox response. “I know people who normally go to sex parties who will not. People will make their own decisions about their own risk levels.”
Many public health officials and activists who spent decades on the front lines of the battle against HIV/AIDS say they have learned it is futile to tell people to have less sex.
I suspect the covid whoop-tee-doo slowed down the sex lives of many, even some male homosexuals. But who can imagine comparing the government’s and the media’s response to covid to their response to monkeypox. Covid involved ordinary people doing ordinary things like attending weddings, while monkeypox is, so far, restricted to one of our leading sacralized groups consecrating their most sacred sacrament, the gay orgy.
That stance puts them at odds with the WHO, a top New York epidemiologist who condemned the city’s messaging and others within the gay community who say gay men deserve direct warnings before it is too late to end the outbreak.
“It was devaluing gay men’s lives and health not to warn gay men,” said Dan Savage, a sex columnist who has criticized the public health response to monkeypox. “Now, here we are, really on the verge of monkeypox being endemic in gay communities all over the world, and how is that for stigma?”
Savage, who is no prude as a proponent of non-monogamous relationships and exploring fetishes, said public health officials should have advised gay men to curb their sex lives at the start of the outbreak in May, which experts suspect was supercharged by large festivals in Europe with rampant sexual activity.
Savage is taking his own advice, limiting sex to his husband and his boyfriend and skipping San Francisco’s Dore Alley festival this year.
A dozen Dore Alley attendees interviewed by The Washington Post said they took monkeypox seriously — without the government scolding them to do so. … Several said they planned to avoid casual sex at afterparties.
In other words, how do we keep straight people from noticing the truth about monkeypox?
… San Francisco Public Health Officer Susan Philip said the city has learned over decades fighting HIV in coordination with LGBTQ organizations that messages of complete abstinence are ineffective and erode trust within the community.
Who can forget how from 1981 onward the San Francisco authorities demanded complete abstinence from promiscuous sodomy, instantly shutting down the bathhouses and gay bars?
Oh, wait … It turns out that didn’t happen. At all … Instead, San Francisco didn’t do any of that, and tens of thousands of San Franciscan gay men died.
Instead of shutting down Dore Alley, San Francisco officials focused on disseminating information about how the virus spreads to help people make their own choices. The San Francisco AIDS Foundation released a guide to a “filthy weekend — free of anxiety,” encouraging people to attend while taking steps to reduce risk, including dressing head-to-toe in leather or latex to minimize skin-to-skin contact.
But at the street festival itself, warnings about monkeypox were hard to find. Only one of the attendees interviewed said he received an informational pamphlet about the virus, even as organizers checked for proof of coronavirus vaccination.
Public health authorities worry about placing too much emphasis on sex as a mode of transmission because monkeypox also spreads in other ways.
Not at the moment, but in the the future, possibly (especially if monkeypox gets so common in gay men that it happens to randomly mutate to spreading more easily), children will be at risk due to the selfish hedonism of gay men right now. Therefore, QED, it would be wrong to call out the selfish hedonism of gay men today to prevent innocent children from suffering tomorrow.
Zandt Bryan, the sexual health and prevention program manager for the Washington State Department of Health, said urging people to have less sex unfairly places the onus on individuals to end the outbreak and distracts from other potential sources of transmission, such as dancing in packed clubs.
Maybe packed gay dance clubs should be shut down until monkeypox is under control?
“Approaching it from a purely [sexually transmitted infection] standpoint doesn’t really meet the challenge,” Bryan said.
Some critics of early coronavirus restrictions accuse U.S. public health officials of hypocrisy for telling Americans to forgo in-person schooling, religious services, and weddings and funerals to prevent the spread of coronavirus, while refraining from telling people to limit sex to contain the monkeypox outbreak.
Public health officials reject comparisons to the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, when they mandated masks and shut down public spaces. They noted that the novel coronavirus was unfamiliar, far deadlier and airborne, with hospitals overrun with patients at various points over the past two years. Monkeypox has known treatments and vaccines, although they have been challenging to access; it also has not killed anyone in the United States, and hospitalizations are uncommon.
On the other hand, monkeypox is somewhat more lethal in Africa than covid is in America. And the new gay version of moneypox may be different from the classic African version that mostly transmits from animals to people but seldom from people to people. And what about Long Monkeypox? (We don’t hear many reports of that because few women have contracted it so far), and women are a lot more likely to believe they are suffering from Long Covid than are men.) It’s possible that the new gay monkeypox has become a sexually transmitted infection. In general, who knows what the future might bring, and it would be easier to deal with its spread now — just by temporarily shutting down the most grotesquely extreme super-spreader events — than it might be in the future when it’s more commond.
… WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in a news conference last week said the outbreak could be stopped by a collective effort of government and individuals. He said men who have sex with men should consider reducing their number of sexual partners, avoiding new ones, and exchanging contact information to allow for contact tracing and post-exposure vaccination.
WHO officials said asking for temporary changes in sexual behavior is a modest step many gay men are already taking.
“It makes common sense: A reduced number of contacts equals a reduced risk of exposure,” said Andy Seale, a WHO adviser on HIV, hepatitis and sexually transmitted infections. “It’s really about sharing whatever data we get in a stigma-free, moral-free, not-making-any-judgments manner so individuals have access to the data and understand what we are seeing.”
Having not only a stigma-free, moral-free, not-making-any-judgments manner but a pro-gay orgy Pride Month endorsed by practically every major institution is how we got here. We might be able to halt monkeypox by having the same institutions devote comparable marketing budgets to making August 2022 into Shame Month.
Somehow, though, I don’t think that practical suggestion will be acted upon.
… Patrick Gallahue, a spokesman for the [NYC] health department, declined to comment on Weiss’s reassignment [for calling on gays to cut back on the orgies], but pushed back against his call for temporary abstinence.
“For decades, the LGBTQ+ community has had their sex lives dissected, prescribed, and proscribed in myriad ways, mostly by heterosexual and cis people,” Gallahue said in a written statement. “Our guidance and advice are grounded in science and history — including the scientific reviews of how poorly abstinence-only guidance has historically performed in preventing transmission of STIs — with this disgraceful legacy in mind.”
Remarkably, a huge fraction of Americans have been propagandized into believing that the AIDS crisis of the 1980s was caused not by the Gay Liberation of the 1970s, but by restrictions on gay self-indulgence in the more distant past.
Critics of recommendations to limit sexual partners say they fail to heed the lessons learned from decades trying to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic, with public health officials emphasizing safer ways to have sex with condoms and, more recently, daily pills that drastically reduce the risk of getting HIV and adherence to antiretroviral therapy that renders the virus untransmittable for those who are infected.
“We saw a lot of folks at the beginning of the HIV epidemic calling for the closure of public sex venues like bathhouses. That did not stop the spread of HIV.
Especially not in San Francisco where the bathhouses weren’t closed for many year. But, that’s not the point, the point is that the people calling for the closure of the bathhouses in San Francisco, not the people keeping them open, were responsible for the deaths of all those people infected at them, such as Michel Foucault. The logic is impeccable: the people calling for gays to have fewer orgies are the Bad People; and Bad Things, like dying of AIDS, must be caused by Bad People.
People still found ways to have sex,” said Tyler TerMeer, executive director of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation.
Gay rights activists are concerned messaging that comes across as disapproval of same-sex intimacy emboldens escalating attempts by the religious right to drive gay people out of public life, including movements around the nation to remove books about LGBTQ issues from school libraries and a new Florida law that bans instruction or classroom discussion about sexual orientation for young elementary school students.
Still, Jim Downs, a historian who has studied the history of HIV/AIDS, said the monkeypox outbreak has arrived in a much better environment for gay people.
“The difference now is public health authorities are not demonizing, pathologizing or criminalizing gay sex;
Who can forget how the public health authorities in San Francisco were demonizing, pathologizing or criminalizing gay sex in the 1980s?
In summary, The Establishment have been misleading the public about monkeypox for the same reasons it misled the public about AIDS in the 1980s and still does today: because gay men tend to be a powerful, privileged, and selfishly hedonistic group who are risky to offend.