More than 10,000 cases of monkeypox in 27 EU countries have now been confirmed by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. As of 1 August, this includes 4298 cases in Spain, 2677 in Germany, 1955 in France and 925 in the Netherlands. The UK has also confirmed 2546 cases.
Anyone can contract monkeypox. Most people with diagnosed cases so far have been gay or bisexual men; however, there is nothing unique to gay sex that causes higher rates of transmission. The virus is spread through close physical contact. ESWA calls for government and healthcare providers to reject stigmatising or homophobic language when talking about monkeypox.
While gay or bisexual men are currently at higher risk of transmission because of outbreaks in their community, all sex workers who provide in-person services are also at high risk. As transmission spreads, we are likely to see cases of the virus continue to rise throughout our community. ESWA calls on legislators and healthcare service providers to ensure that sex workers, alongside gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men and trans women, be given priority access to the vaccination. Unlike Covid-19, scientists understand how this virus behaves, and treatments already exist. We only need the political will to address this new outbreak.
Governments should remember the lessons learned in the coronavirus pandemic, where financial support proved crucial for those testing positive for covid to be able to take time off work and shield at home. ESWA calls on governments to provide financial support to sex workers who need to take a break from working while they recover from the virus.
We recognise the phenomenal work that many of our members have already been doing around this issue, meeting with politicians, ensuring the inclusion of sex workers and lobbying for the rights of our community. Legislators and healthcare service providers should include sex workers in decision-making processes that concern our health.
ESWA's key recommendations to governments, policymakers and media:
- Do not use stigmatising and homophobic language when reporting on the monkeypox outbreak;
- Roll out vaccinations programmes for all at risks groups, including gay, bisexual and other men who sex with men as well as sex workers;
- Decriminalise sex work and recognise sex work as work so that sex workers can obtain sick leave and other social benefits.