Top Russia Expert Says He's Afraid Gay Sex Can't Explain Monkeypox Spread

A top Russian virus expert has said he's "afraid" gay sex can't explain the spread of monkeypox.

Microbiologist Alexander Gintsburg, director of the Gamaleya Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology, shared his feelings with the state-run TASS news agency at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum.

Gintsburg told the news outlet that "naturally, [a vaccine] is needed," to control the virus, as it is rapidly spreading throughout the globe with no explanation.

"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. The number of confirmed cases is growing day after day," Gintsburg told TASS.

Alexander Gintsburg
Russian microbiologist Alexander Gintsburg told Russian state-run news agency TASS that he was "afraid" that the recent spread of monkeypox could not be explained by gay sex. Kremlin.ru

A significant proportion, but not all, of confirmed monekypox cases are among men who have sex with men. Monkeypox, however, is not a sexually-transmitted disease. Several organizations and campaigners have warned against attaching a stigma to the virus.

Monkeypox is mainly transmitted through close, direct contact. Therefore, it is easily explained why it may spread among sexual partners.

However, the reason for a higher proportion among men who have sex with men, is unclear.

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, TASS reported.

According to the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control, 1,158 monkeypox cases have been recorded across 22 EU/EEA countries. The center reported that worldwide, 1,882 cases have been confirmed.

Russia liberalized some of its LGBTQ+ laws following the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. However, there remain many obstacles for the community in the country.

According to the Council for Global Equality, Russian authorities have repeatedly denied to allow Pride parades and "condoned anti-LGBT statements by government officials."

A law passed in 2013 banned the distribution of propaganda about "non-traditional" sexual relationships to minors. Russia uses language such as "non-traditional", "traditional values" or "traditional family," in laws concerning the LGBTQ+ community.

There has been concern that the stigma concerning gay and bisexual men, attaching itself to monkeypox, could hinder LGBTQ+ communities across the globe.

In recent days, there has been concern surrounding the community in Iraq in particular.

Homosexuality is legal in Iraq, however people can be arrested for public indecency.

Earlier this month, Sally Bachori—an MD/MS candidate living in the US who grew up in Iraq—told Newsweek that homosexuality is "heavily frowned upon," and people "really do believe that monkeypox is caused by homosexual individuals.

"I hate to be pessimistic but things are not looking great for the future of the LGBTQ+ community in Iraq. Especially after the [now deleted] tweet Muqtada Al-Sadr made a few days ago. The hashtag [#nogay] is still a trend that people keep tweeting about," Bachori said.

According to Middle East Eye, Sadr, an Iraqi Shia scholar, politician and militia leader said in a now-deleted tweet: "I call on them [homosexuals] to repent."

He then called for laws that provide gay rights in Iraq to be repealed to "protect humanity from the monkeypox epidemic or what we call homosexual-pox."

Monkeypox
A picture shows the monkeypox virus. Scientists are not sure why a proportion of cases have been seen among men who have sex with men. Smith Collection/Gado