A Texas man who recently contracted monkeypox, now commonly known as MPV, received a lot of attention after sharing photos of the infection progressing partially on his face. By publicly sharing his MPV experience, the gay Houstonian said he hopes to raise awareness of its prevalence while also breaking down the stigma and bringing attention to its isolation.
After the 4th of July, Wesley Wallace headed to Austin for the Hippie Hollow Otter Fest, a weekend of queer men on the shores of Lake Travis for some fun on the water.
“It’s like a lake, a boat, a beach,” says the 42-year-old technology specialist.
When he returned from a weekend of drinking, chatting and soaking up the rays, he noticed a hint of irritation on his face, which he attributed to the use of sunscreen while shaving and baking in the sun. When another blister-like spot appeared on her chin on Tuesday, she thought it was a pimple but couldn’t get it out.
The next day after the sores start to grow: Monkey pox, monkey pox. Then on Friday, when she woke up, she knew something was wrong because her body ached, her lymph nodes were swollen and she felt sick.
“So I thought, god i know“I know what it is,” he says. Wallace said he found out that Quest Diagnostics had just come online to test for MPV, so he called his doctor and asked for the test.
In the end, his doctor did not require test results to recognize the presence of MPV.
Unlike many people with MPV, she doesn’t believe she got it through sex.
“I’m a bit of a promiscuous person, and I’ll just have sex, but I’ve never been so wild the weekend I got it,” she says.
He said he took his shirt off at crowded gay bars over the Fourth of July weekend, where countless sweaty men rubbed him. He says he thinks he caught an MPV by kissing someone.
“I talked to a few people at the bar,” she says, “and then there was a lot of hugging.”
Since TPOXX was not available to him at the time, Wallace’s doctor prescribed Vicodin and gabapentin, an anticonvulsant for nerve pain.
On June 30, another person, Kyle Plank, started feeling sick after attending Pride in New York. The 26-year-old said he was more concerned about MPV than the average person and tried to get vaccinated early, but failed. Plank said he initially thought he had contracted COVID when the infection started.
For several days his body ached and tired. “But that’s it [coronavirus] The test was negative again,” he says.
And that’s what happened – she found bumps on her hands, arms and elsewhere. According to her, the most painful sores in her genital area kept her awake at night and made her feel uncomfortable because of the intense pain. Other sores often irritated to the touch, he said.
Other MPV patients we spoke to said that sores in the area they believed to be infected by someone else were constantly painful, while bumps that appeared elsewhere on their body were less painful.
Planck is a Ph.D. student studying infectious diseases, so because of his experience in the medical community and his ability to protect himself, he received TPOXX the day after he visited an academic medical center in New York on July 5.
Because the drug is thoroughly tested and heavily regulated, he believes the government should make it available and allow people to participate in clinical trials. What’s more, even though he made a full recovery, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the two-hour paper can’t be required to get an antivirus, even after lowering the requirements.
Although he understands the nuances of the government’s response, he says much of what happened in the US MPV outbreak could have been prevented in May if the government had had vaccines available when the outbreak broke out in Europe.
“Waiting and seeing is not how infectious diseases work, and unlike with COVID, we had the tools. We have an 85 percent effective vaccine and an antiviral drug that is safe for humans and effective in animal models of orthopoxvirus infections,” says Plank.
In addition to the physical effects, MPVs take an emotional toll on people, according to Plank and Wallace.
“I’ve had people I know turn their backs on me and get messages of hate and outrage, trying to shame and stigmatize me,” Wallace says. “But it’s not going to work.”
With tears in her eyes, Wallace says it’s been hard to live with the public scarlet letter on her face. But she says she takes strength from knowing her story can help others in the LGBTQ+ community (who have been the most vulnerable to the virus so far).
“So I knew how to help others,” he says. So, after talking to some friends, he says he decided to come forward and share his experience to eradicate the MPV shame.
“It’s me; I have a virus,” he says. “That’s it.”
Last Wednesday, the World Health Organization warned that men who have sex with men should reduce the number of sexual partners. The WHO’s advice goes beyond what the CDC recommends, which recommends that people avoid skin-to-skin contact with someone who has MPV.
More to follow Advocate News on Pride today below