How Gay Men Saved Us From Mpox
It was July of 2022, just last summer, and an outbreak of mpox — formerly known as monkeypox — was in full swing. From a handful of cases in a few cities in early May, the outbreak surged to more than 16,000 cases in 75 countries and territories just two months later. It was terrifying.
The sudden appearance of so many mpox cases everywhere and all at once was shocking. Aside from an occasional case among travelers from countries in West or Central Africa, where the virus is endemic, mpox was extremely rare in Europe or North America. The United States had seen only one outbreak, back in 2003, among Midwesterners with pet prairie dogs that had been housed with infected African rodents. There were 47 cases then and no documented cases of human-to-human transmission.
This time was different. In early May of 2022, mpox found its way to gay raves in Spain and Belgium, huge annual parties that draw men from all over the world. Clothing was scant, grinding was plentiful and when the parties were over everyone flew home. Within weeks, mpox cases — resulting from human-to-human transmission — began cropping up in cities worldwide.