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HEALTH

How Spain’s gay community has taken action as monkeypox spreads

Whether it's abstinence, avoiding nightclubs, limiting sexual partners or pushing for a swift vaccine rollout, Spain's gay community are on the front line of the monkeypox virus and are taking action.

How Spain's gay community has taken action as monkeypox spreads
A file photograph showing doses of the Imvanex vaccine used to protect against Monkeypox virus. Photo: Alain JOCARD / POOL / AFP

“With this monkey thing, I prefer to be careful… I don’t have sex any more, I don’t go to parties any more, and that’s until I’m vaccinated and have some immunity,” said Antonio, a 35-year-old from Madrid who declined to give his surname.

Antonio, who often went to nightclubs and sometimes to sex parties, decided to act as cases continued to increase.

Spain on Saturday reported its second monkeypox-related death.

Outside of Africa, the only other such death has been in Brazil.

More than 18,000 cases have been detected throughout the world outside of Africa since the beginning of May, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Spain is one of the world’s worst-hit countries. The country’s health ministry’s emergency and alert coordination centre put the number of infected people at 4,298.

As cases increase globally, the WHO has called on the group currently most affected by the virus — men who have sex with men — to limit their sexual partners.

READ ALSO: WHO expects more monkeypox-related deaths in Europe

Before going on holiday abroad, one holidaymaker said he would avoid “risky situations”.

“I didn’t go to sex clubs anymore and I didn’t have sex either,” the 38-year-old explained.

“This is not like Covid, the vaccine already exists, there’s no need to invent it. If it wasn’t a queer disease, we would have acted more – and faster,” said Antonio.

Like other members of the gay community, he believes the authorities have not done enough.

NGOs have denounced a lack of prevention, a shortage of vaccines and stigmatisation linked to the virus.

This is despite the WHO declaring the monkeypox outbreak a global health emergency.

Early signs of the disease include a high fever, swollen lymph glands and a chickenpox-like rash.

The disease usually heals by itself after two to three weeks, sometimes taking a month.

A smallpox vaccine from Danish drug maker Bavarian Nordic, marketed under the name Jynneos in the United States and Imvanex in Europe, has been found to protect against monkeypox.

It took Antonio three weeks to get an appointment to be vaccinated, after logging on to the official website every day at midnight.

Appointments “are going as fast as tickets to the next Beyonce concert”, another joked referring to the gay icon.

So far, Spain has only received 5,300 doses which arrived in late June.

The Spanish health ministry declined to comment when contacted by AFP.

Nahum Cabrera of the FELGTBI+ NGO, an umbrella group of over 50 LGBTQ organisations from all over Spain, insists there is an urgent need to vaccinate those most at risk.

That means not just gay men, but anyone who has “regular sex with multiple partners, as well as those who frequent swingers’ clubs, LGTBI saunas etc”, he said.

“It risks creating a false sense of security among the general population, and they relax into thinking that they are safe and that it only happens to men who have sex with men,” he said.

The target age group for vaccination is those aged between 18 and 46, he added.

Older people are vaccinated against smallpox which was eradicated in Europe in the early 1970s.

“We are facing a health emergency… that affects the LGBTI community, so people think it is insignificant, that it is not serious,” said Ivan Zaro, of the Imagina MAS (Imagine More) NGO.

“This is exactly what happened 40 years ago with HIV.

Image director Javier spent three days in hospital in early July after becoming infected. 

After three weeks in isolation, a challenge after the pressures of Covid, he told his family and friends.

The 32-year-old, who is in a monogamous relationship, said he still did not know how he had caught it.

“I warn everyone,” he said. “It’s an infectious disease, anyone can catch it.”

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HEALTH

What is the average waiting time across Spain to see a doctor?

Find out the average amount of time you'll have to wait to see your GP, a specialist and get a non-urgent surgery in your region of Spain.

What is the average waiting time across Spain to see a doctor?

Where you live in Spain greatly affects the amount of time you’ll have to wait, from the first appointment with your family doctor to seeing a specialist and even through to an operation, if you need one. 

Two and half years after the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, which almost brought the country’s clinics and hospitals to breaking point, how is the situation now?

Here are the average waiting times in each region of the country, with data published by the regional health authorities. 

Andalusia
In Andalusia, the average wait time to see a doctor is four days. To see a specialist such as a dermatologist or a cardiologist, however, you will be waiting three months. Wait times for non-urgent surgeries vary depending on what you need. 

Aragón
Those living in Aragón will typically be able to get a doctor’s appointment within three days, but to see a specialist, it is one of the worst regions in the country, with an average waiting time of four months.

Asturias
The latest waiting times to see a doctor or a specialist in Asturias have not yet been published, but if you need a special test such as an MRI, you will be waiting more than three months.

Balearic Islands
In the Balearics, the average waiting time for an appointment to see your GP is one week, while if you need to see a specialist, you will be waiting around two months. For a non-urgent surgery, you will be on the waiting list for an average of four and a half months. The Balearic Islands are one of the worst places if you need a diagnostic test though with an average wait of more than six months. 

Basque Country
Data from the Basque Country has so far not been made available. 

Canary Islands
Like in Aragón, the Canary Islands is one of the worst places to live if you need to see a specialist with the longest waiting time of more than four months.

Cantabria
Cantabria has so far not updated its data on waiting times to see a specialist, but if you need a non-urgent surgery it has one of the longest waiting times at six months.

Castilla-La-Mancha
Those in Castilla-La-Mancha have one of the shortest wait times to see a GP, being able to book an appointment within just 48 hours. They’ll have to wait longer to see a specialist, however, with an average wait of two months. Those waiting for non-urgent surgery will be waiting another four months.

Castilla y León
In Castilla y León you’ll wait an average of six days before being given an appointment and two months to see a specialist.

Catalonia
Residents of Spain’s northeastern region wait an average of five days in order to get a doctor’s appointment. For diagnostic tests, the wait time depends on what you need. You will be on the list for five months on average for a colonoscopy and two months for an MRI.

If you need to see a specialist again it will completely depend on what type of specialist you need to see. For example, if you need to see a urologist you’ll have to wait five months, but if you need to see a neurologist you’ll be able to get an appointment in less than three months. If your doctor thinks you require non-urgent surgery, you will need to wait another four and half months.

Extremadura
In Extremadura, you’ll have to wait an average of four days for an appointment, while the waiting time to see a specialist will be around two months. Like Cantabria, Extremadura is one of the worst places to live if you need non-urgent surgery, as you’ll be waiting around half a year.

Galicia
Those in Galicia will be able to see a doctor in just three days, however, they have not published recent data on the wait time to see a specialist. They have however published data for non-urgent surgery which is an average wait of three months.

Madrid
Like in Galicia, in Madrid the waiting time for an appointment is just three days, but two months to see a specialist. For a test like an ultrasound or a CT scan, you will be waiting two months. If you need a non-urgent surgery, you’ll be on the waitlist for a further three months.

Murcia
The average wait time to see your GP has not been made available yet, but like in Andalusia, you’ll be waiting more than three months if you need to see a specialist. It’s one of the best regions for wait times for diagnostic tests though as you will be waiting less than one month. 

Navarre
Navarre has one of the shortest wait times for an appointment, available in just 48 hours. If you need to see a specialist, you’ll be waiting a further two months. Those waiting for a non-urgent surgery will have to wait an average of three months.  

La Rioja
Along with Castilla-La Mancha and Navarre, La Rioja has the shortest wait time to get a doctor’s appointment. Here, you’ll be able to see your GP in just 48 hours. This region is also the best to live in if you need to see a specialist or get a specialised test, with a wait of less than one month. If you need non-urgent surgery though it’s not so good, as you’ll be waiting an average of four months.

Valencia
Those living in Valencia have the longest wait out of all the regions for an appointment, where you’ll wait more than a month just to see a GP. When it comes to seeing a specialist you’ll need to wait another three months. And if you need surgery, you will have to wait four and half months on top of that.

The types of non-urgent surgeries the data refers to are hip and knee replacements. For other types of surgeries, it will depend on how urgent it is and what type of surgery it is. At the beginning of the year, there were more than 706,000 people waiting for an operation in Spain, according to data from the Ministry of Health.

You should be aware, however, that official data doesn’t always represent reality. Some readers have told us that currently, they are having to wait a month to see their GP in Catalonia and seven months to see a specialist.

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