Having Safer Sex in the Age of Monkeypox

ATLANTA, G.A, August, 2022 Stop HIV Atlanta is a non-profit organization with a mission to provide sex-positive and queer-centric resources to minimize the risk of transmitting and contracting HIV. In the face of the monkeypox outbreak in the United States, Stop HIV Atlanta strives to be a reliable source of information for those most vulnerable to the virus. 

Currently, researchers know that monkeypox can spread through close physical contact, including sex. Read below to learn more about having safer sex in the age of breakthrough monkeypox cases across Georgia and how to engage in practices that minimize the risk of transmitting and contracting the virus. 

What We Know

Although it is a rare disease, scientists, researchers, and medical professionals worldwide are sounding the alarm on monkeypox due to breakthrough cases in countries with typically low incidence rates. Prior to the emergence of the 2022 outbreak, monkeypox mainly was limited to central and western African countries. If any cases of monkeypox emerged, they were primarily due to international travel or imported animals that harbored the virus (such as monkeys or rodents, who can infect humans). 

Monkeypox is currently not considered an STI, but skin-to-skin contact during sexual activity can result in an infection if one of the participants is sick with the virus. Researchers have observed that men who have sex with other men present a higher risk of contracting monkeypox, as well as those with multiple sex partners. Men who have sex with men and other sexually active folks should take appropriate measures to avoid contracting or transmitting the virus, especially if they have symptoms.

It is important to note that although cases have occurred predominantly among men who have sex with other men, anyone can contract monkeypox if exposed to someone with the virus. 

Why Can Monkeypox Transmission Occur During Sex?

The reason why monkeypox is particularly transmissible during sex is that close contact can result in transmission. Often, infection occurs through skin-to-skin contact with the site of a monkeypox rash or lesion, and respiratory secretions found during intimate contact, such as cuddling, kissing, and face-to-face proximity. All these factors are typically present during intercourse. 

Ways for Folks to Protect Themselves and Their Sex Partners 

Sexually active individuals can protect themselves and their partners through barrier methods, no-contact sexual activity, or abstaining from sex. It is recommended for those experiencing symptoms to avoid face-to-face contact with others, which may limit sexual activity.

If you are at risk of contracting monkeypox and decide to engage in sexual activity, there are steps you can take to protect yourself and your partners. Engaging in virtual sex, phone sex, sexting, or masturbating at a distance can allow partners to have sexual activity while minimizing the risk of monkeypox exposure. Additionally, consider covering areas with rashes through clothes, condoms, or dental dams; while understanding that if a monkeypox rash is around the areas, barrier methods may not fully protect you from exposure to the virus. Avoiding physical contact such as prolonged touching or kissing can help prevent the transmission of the virus. Regardless of the choices you make to keep yourself and your partner safe, you should always consider sanitizing surfaces, fabrics, clothes, toys, fetish gear, and any other object used during sex. 

If you have come in contact with someone presenting symptoms, or someone who tested positive for monkeypox, you should consider notifying anyone you have had close, personal contact with during the last three weeks. 

About Stop HIV Atlanta:

Stop HIV Atlanta is a non-profit organization offering educational resources to prevent the propagation of HIV in disproportionately affected communities. We provide inclusive, zero-judgment information and resources to those seeking access to HIV services in Fulton, Gwinnett, DeKalb, and Cobb Counties. The testing, prevention (PrEP), and treatment resources we refer to interested parties are always confidential and secure. Learn more about our mission and services by visiting www.stophivatl.org or emailing us at [email protected].