The UK’s first monkeypox patient to go public claims it took contact tracers two weeks to get in touch with him. James M, from London, went for a sexual health test at a specialist clinic in London after experiencing ‘really weird aches’ in his lower back, pain when using the restroom and exhaustion
Three days later a PCR test confirmed the 35-year-old had come down with monkeypox. James, an HR manager, told MailOnline that he had just returned from Dubai, where he had lived for four years, after a ‘shock’ HIV diagnosis earlier this year. He lost his job and his home following the diagnosis in February and on his return to the UK he was convinced he had caught a sexually transmitted infection after spotting symptoms.
He told the publication: “‘When I got to the clinic I was told to go and wait outside the main door and call them, they said they were going to put on PPE and they told me not to touch door handles. kind of heightens your sense of, ‘oh this must be really serious’. I remember going to Covid centers and it wasn’t as daunting or overwhelming as this.””
READ MORE: Monkeypox cases continue to rise as 18 more identified to have the virus in England
James claims it took almost two weeks for contract tracers from UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) to get in touch with him and alleged that he was told that he didn’t have the contagious disease as he did not have the symptoms of a rash, lump or pest associated with monkeypox. UKHSA denies this and says they made multiple attempts to reach him.
He continued: “It’s no wonder now we’re getting so many more infections if no contact tracing or awareness about you not needing the spots to have the virus being told to people. I was told that within 24 hours of my diagnosis someone from UKHSA would call me.
“I’ve called the clinic every day, asking ‘why aren’t they calling me, I’m not allowed outside and not allowed to go work. The UKHSA is not calling me, someone needs to document this.”‘
Following a positive test for monkeypox, James received a letter from Chelsea and Westminster NHS Foundation Trust which told him to “”stay in isolation at home until further review”.
He told TalkTV: “Funnily enough, [the UKHSA did not contact me] until 10 minutes ago after my story broke all of the sudden they found my right phone number which seems farcical because every day I’ve been calling my clinic, the NHS trust, trying to get someone to get people to call me so we can do contact tracing, so we can identify other people at risk.”
At the time of his diagnosis, very few cases of monkeypox had been confirmed and James was annoyed in the days following his diagnosis that he wasn’t asked for more information to help stop the spread.
Though, the UKHSA claims it has tried on multiple attempts to get in touch with James following his positive test result for the contagious disease which has so far disproportionately affected gay and bisexual men.
He said: “Coming back to the UK where it’s supposed to be safe and have world-leading health care, it kind of felt like a kick in the teeth to have experienced this treatment. Even though there were only 80ish people with it in UK when I was lacking diagnosed, there was just a real of any basic process or care to try and stop the spread.
“It’s frustrating coming out of Covid and seeing how lax they were with what is clearly a very spreadable disease, especially with men in London.”
UKHSA says they made multiple attempts to reach him
Dr Yimmy Chow, consultant in communicable disease control at UKHSA London, said: “We had previously made multiple attempts to reach this individual by phone and email and have now successfully made contact.
“Anyone who suspects they might have monkeypox, particularly if they have recently had a new sexual partner, to limit their contact with other people and contact NHS 111 or their local sexual health service as soon as they can.”
Matt is a trainee reporter specializing in LGBT+ issues, including speaking to LGBTQ+ activist Peter Tatchell ahead of the 50th anniversary of Gay Pride in the UK, an interview with an ex-Lieutenant Commander who was forced to keep his sexuality a secret in the Armed Forces for 20 years who lost his partner to AIDS two days before he left the Navy, and speaking to the founder of The Gay Men’s Dance Company, which offers pole dancing classes, among others.
Got a story? You can reach Matt at email@example.com or DM him on Twitter via @mattlsivey.
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