I caught mpox and it felt like I was sh*tting glass
Written by an anonymous gay.
Kia ora fellow gay and bi guys (and of course to Dlow, trans and non-binary people who have sex with us),
I thought it was high time that someone spoke about what it’s like having mpox. I was case #6 in Aotearoa New Zealand. We’re lucky that there are only about 40 cases so far, thanks to everyone’s amazing efforts keeping it at bay.
But now that the mpox vaccine has arrived, I wanted to share my story after catching it in Europe. Lots of my friends have been anxious about it and have changed their sex lives over the past few months, and to be honest, fair enough. Hopefully, very soon, we can all return to our regular scheduled programming.
I’m not going to sugar coat it; mpox was agonising and I beat myself up about it for a long time.
I was on holiday in Europe and knew that it was running rampant at the time, so I told myself to keep it in my pants. But I spoke to a friend who lives there and he told me that pretty much everyone he knew had been vaccinated, so thought I’d probably be safe and got stuck into some Dutch men.
For those who don’t know, the vaccine works to prevent mpox pre-exposure, but it also works great post-exposure.
My symptoms came on while waiting to board my flight home in the international terminal of a European airport. I had a killer fever, was shivering, and my hole was aching, and not in a good way. I thought that maybe I had caught COVID-19 and at the same time had developed one of those pesky haemorrhoids.
It was a horrid flight. When I went to the bathroom, it honestly felt like I was sh*tting out glass. It was unbearable.
It wasn’t COVID, but I still did my best to isolate on the plane with a mask and scooching myself as hard up against the arm rest from my neighbour as I could. I still didn’t think it could be mpox.
It was a horrid flight. When I went to the bathroom, it honestly felt like I was sh*tting out glass. It was unbearable. I was biting down on my jumper and on the verge of tears as I started to bleed into the cramped plane toilet.
By the time we got back to Auckland, I couldn’t walk. I’ve since learnt that this pain was because of proctitis (swelling of the lining inside the rectum). My partner picked me up and we quickly started a tour of various health centres to try and diagnose what was going on.
Eventually, I ended up at Auckland Sexual Health where a doctor swabbed me. Fortunately, they had been diagnosing and treating mpox in the UK before coming here, so I felt I was in good hands. And sure enough, the next day I got the call with my positive result.
And so ensued 10 days of trying to isolate from my partner and my dog, taking the daily phone calls from the public health unit checking in, and some good meds to manage the bleeding, pain and other symptoms.
I only had three lesions on and around the outside of my anus, so a mild case compared to what lots have gone through. I was expecting my whole body to be dotted with them, much like a dalmatian, like I’d seen on social media.
I monitored the situation by squatting my ass over some mirrors, which eventually just turned into my partner taking daily hole pics for me (using a zoomed phone camera from afar and wearing PPE, of course). I wasn’t allowed out of isolation until the lesions had healed and I received confirmation of that from Auckland Sexual Health.
This happened in August 2022 but am only now starting to tell people about it. I felt so guilty. Why hadn’t I just kept it in my pants? I’m a very sex-positive person, but I didn’t know how people would react. Would they blame me for bringing it into the country? Would my partner think I was reckless? Would I be slut-shamed, or would someone say it was because I’m gay?
Make it safe for your friends to tell you if they’ve had mpox. The last thing we want is to repeat the HIV story.
I guess, this is an insight for all of us on the stigmatising experiences of people living with HIV, now and in the early days when HIV and AIDS were so new and unknown.
My lessons for all of you – talk to others about mpox in a non-judgmental way, we’re all going through this together right now. Make it safe for your friends to tell you if they’ve had mpox. The last thing we want is to repeat the HIV story.
And of course, call Healthline and get an mpox consultation, and support others to do the same. It’s worked remarkably well overseas at controlling outbreaks and now it’s our turn. I’m not eligible to be vaccinated as an mpox infection provides me enough immunity, but I will be encouraging my partner and friends to book their consultations.