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‘It’s Scary’: Gay Men Confront a Health Crisis With Echoes of the Past

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It was happy hour at a gay bar in Harlem, 4West Lounge, and the after-work crowd had come to drink rum punch and watch “RuPaul’s Drag Race.” But instead, perched on stools, the men talked about the rapidly spreading monkeypox virus: their efforts to snag a coveted vaccine appointment, in a city where demand for the shots far outstrips supply; the slow government rollout of vaccines and treatment; and their confusion about how the disease spreads and how to stay safe. “It feels like survival of the fittest, with all the pandemic waves and now monkeypox and all these vaccine problems,” said James Ogden, 31, who secured a vaccine appointment after weeks spent navigating the city’s glitchy online sign-up process.

Kelvin Ehigie, 32, the bartender, agreed. When asked about the future, he said: “I do not feel confident.” For gay and bisexual men in New York, the summer has been consumed with similar conversations as monkeypox cases spike among men who have sex with men.

There is widespread fear of the virus, which primarily spreads through close physical contact and causes excruciating lesions and other symptoms that can lead to hospitalization.

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