The survey conducted by LGBT HERO also found that more than two-thirds feel anxious about having sex with 42% saying the outbreak is negatively affecting their mental health.

A new survey conducted by the national health and wellbeing charity, LGBT HERO, has found that nearly 40% of gay, bisexual and men who have sex with men (GBMSM) have stopped having sex due to the current monkeypox outbreak. The survey of 574 people also found that more than two-thirds (69%) of men feel anxious about having sex, as the virus continues to spread among GBMSM. 42% also stated that the outbreak is negatively affecting their mental health. 

Speaking on the findings of the survey, Ian Howley, Chief Executive of LGBT HERO said, “It was very clear once we understood this to be a virus that’s being passed through sexual activity this would have an impact on our community. Men who have sex with men make up a small part of the population, but we tend to collect ourselves in tight-knit circles. Once this became a virus that passed through close contact and sexual activity it was bound to impact us. 

Howley adds, “What we were not ready for, was the impact it would have on our community’s mental wellbeing. It’s understandable people will feel anxious about this virus. Monkeypox, even though it doesn’t seem to be lethal for the vast majority of people who get it, is a very visual virus that can be quite painful for many. The fear of contracting the virus and the impact it will have on our bodies is quite high. It’s not right that a community like ours has to deal with this without much support.”

When asked what people were most anxious about, 67% said they were concerned about passing it on to others, 65% were worried about the visible symptoms of the virus, with 57% concerned about the perception of monkeypox as a “gay disease” and the stigma it involves. 

Howley commented, “Labelling this as a ‘gay disease’ will first stigmatise gay men. We have already had reports of gay men being called ‘monkeypox faggot’ in the streets. And second, the general population won’t take this seriously or even misdiagnose themselves if they do contract the virus – making it easier for this to become endemic in our population. 

Of the respondents who told the charity they’ve had monkeypox, 39% reported that they have experienced some kind of stigma because of it. When asked where from, 24% stated mainstream media, 19% said from within the LGBTQ+ community and 14% saying social media / family and friends.

“I’m not happy to hear that people in the community are stigmatising those for having this virus." Howley commented, he adds, "Going through the AIDS crisis should be enough for all of us to understand that we need to treat each other with compassion and care. Please do not stigmatise people for having monkeypox – or for the sex they are having. Stigma of any kind hurts us all, not just the person who you are aiming it at.”

On what needs to be done to support our community to get through this, Howley says, “Although this virus is impacting our community now, if we all work together, get vaccinated when we can and look out for each other, it can be our community that ends monkeypox in the UK. In the meantime, if you do contract monkeypox, please look after yourself, your mental health and try not to worry too much. It may be an uncomfortable time, but you’ll get through it. We’ll all get through it. Let’s show everyone just how strong and caring our community really is. Monkeypox may not have started with us, but it can end with us.”

The full report, Monkeypox on the mind: sex, anxiety and mental wellbeing can be read here:

Visit LGBT HERO's monkeypox hub for the latest information, help and advice.

Find out more about sexual wellbeing by visiting LGBT HERO’s sexual wellbeing hub.

If you'd like to talk to someone about these results please email us on [email protected]