From vaccines to testing, targeted health messaging will help us protect as many as people from the virus as possible

Not since the gruesome heyday of HIV/Aids has a virus been such a threat to men who have sex with men. As monkeypox rips through queer communities, particularly in London, the cruel legacy of that pandemic casts an unnerving shadow. Conversations in LGBTQ+ spaces – from Highgate men’s pond in the capital to bars and clubs in urban centres – turn anxiously to this new threat.

Those who have had the virus share their experiences: some symptoms mild, others painful and miserable. WhatsApp groups ping with pictures of gay and bisexual men proudly displaying plaster-covered upper arms to confirm they’ve been vaccinated in a flashback to the peak of the national Covid trauma. On the gay hookup app Grindr, some use their profiles to announce they’re abstaining from sexual contact until their scheduled vaccination; in queer clubs, some choose to skip the ritual taking-off of T-shirts, fearing the prolonged skin-on-skin contact of an intimate dance will put them at risk.

Owen Jones is a Guardian columnist

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