A Texan man who recently contracted monkeypox, which is now called MPV, has received a lot of mixed attention after sharing photos of the infection’s development, which partly showed up on his face. By publicly sharing his experience of MPV, the gay Houstonian says he hopes to raise awareness about its prevalence while also removing stigma and drawing attention to its isolation.
After the Fourth of July break, Wesley Wallace traveled to Austin for the Hippie Hollow Otter Festival, a weekend event attended by gay men on Lake Travis, to have fun on the water.
“It’s a lake, a boat, kind of shores,” says the 42-year-old tech expert.
When he came back from the weekend drinking and socializing and soaking up some sun, he noticed some irritation on his face, which he attributed to shaving and using sunscreen while baking in the sun. When another pimple-like spot appeared on his chin on Tuesday, he assumed it was a pimple, but he couldn’t pop it.
After the sores start to grow the next day, think, Monkeypox and monkeypox. Then, when he woke up on Friday, he learned something was wrong because his body was aching and swollen lymph nodes made him feel unwell.
“So I thought, Oh God, I already know,He says, “I know what this is.” Wallace says he was aware Quest Diagnostics had just come online for an MPV test, so he called his doctor and asked for a test.
In the end, his doctor didn’t ask for a test result to realize he had MPV.
Unlike many who have contracted MPV, he does not believe it was acquired through sex.
“I have a mixed nature, and have casual sex, but the exact weekend I was going to have, I wasn’t wild,” he says.
According to him, on the Fourth of July weekend, he took off his shirt in crowded gay bars, where countless sweaters rubbed him. He says he thinks he caught MPV by kissing someone.
“I probably got to know several people at the bar, and a lot of the hugging went on,” he says.
Because TPOXX was not available to him at the time, Wallace’s doctor prescribed Vicodin and gabapentin, an anti-neuralgia medication.
On June 30, another man, Kyle Blank, began feeling ill after attending Pride celebrations in New York City. The 26-year-old says he’s been worried about MPV for longer than the average person and tried to vaccinate early but couldn’t. Plank says he initially thought he had COVID when the infection started.
For several days he was suffering from body aches and fatigue. “But that [coronavirus] The test kept coming back negative,” he says.
And then it happened – he discovered the bumps on his arms, hands, and elsewhere. In the area of his genitals, he says, the most painful lesions kept him awake at night, unable to rest because of her intense pain. He says the other lesions have mostly become jittery when touched.
Other MPV patients we spoke with also reported that lesions in the area they thought they had come into contact with another person’s infection were consistently painful, while bumps that appeared elsewhere on their bodies were less painful.
Plank is a doctoral student studying infectious diseases, so given his expertise in the medical community and ability to stand up for himself, he received TPOXX the day after his July 5 visit to an academic medical center in New York.
Because this drug has been rigorously tested and heavily regulated, he believes the government should make it available and allow people to sign up for clinical trials. Moreover, although he’s fully recovered, he says it was unacceptable that two hours of paperwork would be required to get an antiviral even after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lowered requirements.
Despite understanding the nuances of the government’s response, he says, much of what happened in the United States in connection with the MPV outbreak in May could have been avoided had the government gotten the vaccines when the outbreak spread to Europe.
“Wait and see does not take into account how infectious diseases work, and very differently from COVID, we have the tools. We have an 85 percent effective antiviral vaccine that has been shown to be safe in humans and effective in animal models of orthopoxvirus infection,” says Planck.
Aside from its physical effects, MPV also has an emotional impact on people, say Planck and Wallace.
“There are people I know who have turned their backs on me, and I’ve received messages of hate and stinging criticism, trying to shame and stigmatize me,” Wallace says. “But that won’t work.”
Wallace says through his tears that it was difficult for him to live with the societal equivalent of the scarlet letter on his face. But he says he draws strength from knowing that his story will help other people in the LGBTQ+ community (who have been the most vulnerable to the virus thus far).
“So what I knew was helping others,” he says. So, after talking to some friends, he said he decided to come forward and share his experience to bring the shame out of MPV.
“This is me; I have had a virus,” he said. “This is it.”
Last Wednesday, the World Health Organization warned that men who have sex with men should reduce the number of their sexual partners. The WHO advice goes beyond what the CDC has suggested, which has only recommended individuals to avoid skin contact with someone who may have been infected with MPV.
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