The World Health Organization (WHO) recommended the use of condoms as a means of preventing potential monkeypox infections this week, following reports that viral DNA has been found in semen. The guidance comes several weeks after AIDS Healthcare Foundation first highlighted the importance of barrier protection for high-risk groups to reduce the risk of monkeypox infection and other potential comorbidities such as gonorrhea, syphilis, and HIV.
“Although all signs point toward monkeypox being a sexually transmitted disease (STD) – in addition to infectiousness via close, intimate skin contact – there is a notable resistance to saying so unequivocally. We applaud the WHO for recommending condoms, which will undoubtedly protect people from having to experience excruciating symptoms like pain and lesions,” said AHF President Michael Weinstein. “But, the hesitation around classifying monkeypox as an STD is a disservice to public health for patients and healthcare providers. STDs are nothing new, and we have a robust set of tools to treat them. The sooner the global health establishment acknowledges that monkeypox is an STD, the sooner public health information and clinical processes can be deployed in local jurisdictions to respond to this epidemic with the urgency and resources it demands.”
On a technical level, whether monkeypox is an STD hinges on the viruses potential to be transmitted via blood, semen, vaginal fluids, or other body fluids during oral, anal, or genital sex with an infected partner. Evidence is mounting that this may be the case with monkeypox, but because scientific proof takes time, from a practical standpoint, the use of condoms is advisable for reducing the potential risk of some modes of monkeypox transmission and for the prevention of other STDs in combination with other proven public health interventions.