It has almost been a year since Aleksander Sørlie was infected.
Then it was called monkeypox. On Monday, FHI changed its name to mpox.
He fears what will happen if it flares up again, or if a new virus hits the queer environment.
– My experience is that FHI is very bad at, and has little interest in, queer topics, says Aleksander.
When Aleksander’s girlfriend became seriously ill last summer, Aleksander realized that something was wrong.
But despite the fact that Aleksander also fell seriously ill a day later, it was almost impossible to get tested.
At the same time, there were many media reports about the virus. Horror images were bodies covered with large, red blisters.
The couple did not get any blisters. No one talked about the fact that you could be infected without the blisters.
The information they received from the authorities was also not up to snuff.
– The little that was put out to the public was either wrong, or insufficient, says Aleksander.
What happened to the monkey cups?
The first time the disease was discovered in Europe was in England in May last year.
Mpox does not usually have a foothold in this part of the world, and the WHO sounded the alarm after each. They called it a global health crisis.
A month later, the virus came to Norway. It made big headlines.
What is mpox?
Mpox is an infectious disease caused by the monkeypox virus
The disease is usually mild and self-limiting, but more serious cases can occur. The first symptoms are often fever, fatigue and headache. Muscle pain and stiffness are common. After a few days, an itchy rash appears.
Mainly affects men
Infection mainly occurs through close contact with an infected person. In the outbreak that was discovered in May 2022, it was seen that most cases are seen in connection with sexual activity, mainly among certain groups of men who have sex with men.
Has expanded the vaccine offer
Until now, there have been strict priorities regarding who should receive the vaccine against the disease. This is because there was very limited access to the vaccine globally. The offer has now been extended to men who have sex with men and transgender people, who are at risk of becoming infected.
As more people became infected, it was found that men who have sex with men were most at risk.
And when everyone else could have close contact again after two years of pandemic, gay men were asked to limit themselves – indefinitely.
Now, about a year later, the outbreak is under control. Even more people can take the vaccine, and there are few or no cases of infection.
But it is not thanks to the authorities, say Aleksander and HivNorge.
Go abroad for vaccines
When the outbreak came to Norway, many in the queer environment went to other countries to get vaccinated.
This is what Halvor Frihagen in HivNorge tells us.
– In Norway, the outbreak was over before vaccination even started, and then they were very restrictive, he says.
Frihagen believes that it was only thanks to the environment itself, and to HivNorge’s information work, that it went as well as it did.
But trust in the authorities is wearing thin, he believes.
– Completely wrong
Siri Feruglio, department director for infection control at FHI, does not recognize the criticism.
– This was a disease we had not had in Europe at all. We were aware of four cases before it broke out in May, she explains.
According to Feruglio, they tried to inform as best they could with what they knew about monkeypox.
They had a good collaboration with the organizations, and Feruglio praises them about the environments for their efforts.
That FHI does not care about queer topics is completely wrong, she believes.
– We have had targeted research on the topic for a number of years. Then we can always get a little better with information, but we have had this in focus for a very long time.
Aleksander was open about the illness. But there was a hail of nasty comments.
– People wrote that gay men are like monkeys, they screw up everything, they behave like animals, they called it the homosexual plague, he says.
In November, the WHO changed the name monkeypox to mpox, following criticism from several researchers that the name was discriminatory.
In Norway, FHI believed that a name change was not necessary.
Only one year later did they change the name anyway.
– Monkeypox is a horrible name. Virtually everyone I’ve spoken to who has had monkeypox themselves says it’s stigmatizing, he says.
Did you form any thoughts that you would like to share with me after reading this case? I would love to hear from you.
In the past, I have written about, among other things, outsiders, body pressure and health.