Russian Health Official Flummoxed: Sex Isn't Driving Monkeypox Outbreak

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Saturday June 18, 2022

Alexander Gintsburg
Alexander Gintsburg  (Source:Twitter)

A Russian health official seems not to know what to make of the fact that sexual contact isn't the primary driver of the monkeypox outbreak, Newsweek reports.

Alexander Gintsburg, the director of the Gamaleya Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology and a "top Russian virus expert has said he's 'afraid' gay sex can't explain the spread of monkeypox," Newsweek detailed.

Gintsburg told state news apparatus TASS that "that 'naturally, [a vaccine] is needed" to control the virus, as it is rapidly spreading throughout the globe with no explanation," Newsweek reported.

"Today, no one can explain why this infection, which was endemic to the African continent, is spreading across the globe for no apparent reason. I am afraid that it cannot be explained by untraditional sexual contacts only," Ginsburg told TASS.

Newsweek noted that monkeypox, which can be spread through direct contact as well as the sharing of clothes, towels, and bed linens, "is not a sexually-transmitted disease," adding, "Several organizations and campaigners have warned against attaching a stigma to the virus."

The fact that the virus — which leads to symptoms similar to chickenpox — is passed along through direct or indirect casual contact (unlike HIV or other diseases that actually are transmitted through sex) "easily explained why it may spread among sexual partners," Newsweek noted.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, "Russia's sanitary agency, the Federal Service for Surveillance on Consumer Rights Protection and Human Wellbeing, claimed on June 8 that there are no monkeypox cases in Russia," Newsweek went on to say.

Citing the Council for Global Equality, the magazine went on to recall that "Russian authorities have repeatedly denied to allow Pride parades and 'condoned anti-LGBT statements by government officials.' "

"Russia uses language such as 'non-traditional,' 'traditional values' or 'traditional family,' in laws concerning the LGBTQ+ community," Newsweek went on to observe.

Meantime, as previously reported, the WHO has repeated its assurances that Pride events should not be canceled or delayed, and Pride-goers ought not to be overly anxious about attending parades and other events, especially outdoors.

Although WHO's health experts have theorized that the headline-grabbing outbreak of the disease could have been facilitated by people having sex at two European raves, the experts also noted that the reported incidence of the viral infection among men who have sex with men (MSM) "may be a reflection of 'positive health seeking behavior' in that demographic, given that the cases were identified at sexual health clinics."

Whether LGBTQ+ or heterosexual, and whether enjoying Pride or other communal activities, the transmission routes remain the same and everyone is at risk if they happen to come into contact with an infected individual.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.