As much as I appreciate health care professionals emphasizing that Monkeypox is not a sexually transmitted disease, leading with that seems to have done little to help the LGBTQIA+ community. Monkeypox, as it’s currently spreading, needs to come out of the closet. Health care experts who led early with telling Gay and Bisexual men they were the risk population are seeing results.
San Diego County announced that new infection rates are down by a fifth at their August 29 telebriefing. This is promising and in line with data from New York City.
Specifically, I applaud Patrick Loose, Chief of the HIV, STD, and Hepatitis Branch for Public Health Services at the County of San Diego. Early on, Patrick stressed the importance of reducing our frequency and number of multiple casual or anonymous sex partners. While many other county health leaders around the country tried to avoid that part of the equation, Patrick was clear and vocal about these health strategies.
Likely, Patrick, who is part of the LGBT community, was not fearful of blowback from the LGBTQIA+ community for correctly assessing the situation. Though again it is not an STI and people like RuPaul’s Drag Race legend and HIV advocate Trinity K. Bonet has shared her journey on social media with being infected with Monkeypox and emphasized that he did not contract it from sex.
Dan Savage’s Save Love Podcast (Episode 824) discussed his take on health experts’ early mistakes. In that episode, Dan discusses Monkeypox with San Diego’s Dr. Carleton Thomas, who runs a popular social media account talking about anal sex and has been leading on sharing Monkeypox information.
Importantly, this shows why it’s so important to ensure we have Queer representation in all decision-making spaces. Patrick and San Diego County’s leadership has been instrumental to our response.
Though not yet announced, the HIV Planning Group for the County of San Diego voted to create a Monkeypox Task Force to better voice our concerns around distribution, equity, and targeted messaging. Planning Group Chair Michael Lochner will appoint the task force and the County is working on launching application instructions. The first meeting of the task force is slated for September 15.
Lochner stressed in an August telebriefing that we must “Remember that the hard times won’t last forever,” reminding us that if we’re intentional about our collective responsibility, we can “Strengthen and build up our communities now, [so] we’re doing more than surviving. We’re setting the stage for renewed growth and revitalization.”
Updates from the State are also promising. At the end of August, the State announced a $41 million spending package to make it easier for patients to access testing and treatment. The spending plan includes $25.7 million for the state Department of Public Health and $15.8 million for county health departments and community-based groups.
This support comes at a time when Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Diego are still reporting the largest number of cases, with over two-thirds of infections among 25- to 44-year-olds.
The most recent update from San Diego County indicated that there are 279 confirmed or probable cases in the County. Across the Golden State, 3,624 probable and confirmed cases have been reported, according to the California Department of Public Health. This reflects over 100 known hospitalizations.
State Senator Scott Wiener, another Gay man, led the effort to allocate funding, underscoring that funds are needed to improve patient access to services including vaccinations, clinics, testing after possible exposure, antiviral treatments post infection, community outreach, and education campaigns.
Education is needed both for our community but also the community at large. Unorganized, vague, and often incomplete early information made it both hard for Gay and Bisexual men to understand the risk and harm reduction strategies available but still made it easy for hate and stigma to fester. Hate-related incidents tying Queer men and monkeypox has already been reported in August by the Washington Blade, in Washington, D.C.
Los Angeles, the only county to receive their vaccine supplies directly from the federal government, has many opportunities available for first and second dose appointments. Their current posted schedule can be found online and indicates that each location has the capacity to provide an estimated 500 doses a day, with availability on Saturdays and Sundays.
Currently, San Diego is not providing any second doses. San Francisco is only allowing second shots for individuals who have “moderate to severe immune compromise” because they are less likely to develop immunity after just one dose. San Mateo privately invites individuals for second shots, without restriction. Sacramento was also scheduling vaccines by appointment without restriction.
You can go online to myturn.ca.gov to find locations where you can get a second dose vaccine, though I can say that I have tried to use the website multiple time to schedule an appointment and keep getting error message when I try to complete my registration. And my options were either to go up to Santa Ana or Coachella.
Either way, it looks like I’ll need to plan a road trip out of San Diego right now to get a second dose.