Key facts

–  There have been a number of confirmed cases of monkeypox in the UK. Although monkeypox can affect anyone, the majority of those cases are among gay and bisexual men.

– Monkeypox is transmitted through close contact, so is likely being passed on during sex rather than sexual transmission.

– Everyone is being asked to be aware of the monkeypox symptoms, but it’s important gay and bisexual men are alert as it’s believed to be transmitting through sexual networks.

– If you have new unexpected or unexplained spots, ulcers or blisters anywhere on your body (including the face and/or genitals) or any of the other symptoms outlined below, then contact your local sexual health service by phone – not in person – or call 111 for advice.

– Symptoms include fever, headache, muscle aches, backache, swollen glands, chills and exhaustion.

– All calls to a GP, a clinic, and to 111 about monkeypox should be treated sensitively and confidentially.

– Close contacts who have symptoms will be advised to isolate for 21 days.

– Health protection teams are getting in touch with close contacts of anyone diagnosed with monkeypox. They will advise you what to do if you do not have symptoms.

Monkeypox transmission
Monkeypox can be passed on from person to person through:

You’re extremely unlikely to have monkeypox if:

The virus enters the body through broken skin (even if not visible), the respiratory tract, or the mucous membranes (eyes, nose, or mouth). The incubation period is the duration/time between contact with the infected person and the time that the first symptoms appear. The incubation period for monkeypox is between 5 and 21 days.

Monkeypox infection is usually a self-limiting illness and most people recover within several weeks. However, severe illness can occur in some individuals.

The first symptoms of monkeypox include:

A rash usually appears 1 to 5 days after the first symptoms. The rash often begins on the face, then spreads to other parts of the body. This can include the genitals and anus.

The rash is sometimes confused with chickenpox. It starts as raised spots, which turn into small blisters filled with fluid. These blisters eventually form scabs which later fall off.

The symptoms usually clear up in a few weeks. An individual is contagious until all the scabs have fallen off and there is intact skin underneath.

Geographic spread
The proportion of cases resident in London was more than 75% from the start of the incident up to 20 June 2022. This proportion declined to just over 60% in early July and has stayed at around 66% of cases since then. On 18 July 2022 the total number of monkeypox cases confirmed in the UK was 2,137. Most of these were diagnosed in England (2,050) and the majority of cases were in gay and bisexual men.

Monkeypox and HIV
There is limited evidence on monkeypox in people living with HIV, and most is based on research in countries where access to HIV treatment is low, and overall health outcomes are worse than in the UK. Currently people living with HIV should follow the same advice as the general population. Should evidence emerge that people with weakened immune systems are at greater risk of monkeypox, or ill-health from catching the virus, then updated information and advice will be made available.

Monkeypox and PrEP
Monkeypox does not affect effectiveness of PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis); therefore, people who use PrEP should continue to take it.

A safe smallpox vaccine, called Imvanex is available and currently offered to close contacts of people diagnosed with monkeypox and healthcare professionals who are seeing potential monkeypox cases. The vaccine reduces the likelihood of symptomatic infection and severe illness.

UKHSA has announced plans to make the vaccine more widely available – this will include gay and bisexual men who are more likely to be exposed to monkeypox. People are currently advised not to come forward for the vaccine until contacted.

UKHSA guidance for gay/bi/MSM:

Bards and Books a very friendly and sociable LGBTQ+ book group which meets on the first Monday of each month (apart from when this falls on a Bank Holiday in which case it moves to the second Monday). We meet from 11am to 1pm in a venue centrally located in Birmingham. There is the option to continue on to a group lunch after the meeting.

After managing, by using monthly Zooms, to keep Bards and Books going throughout the pandemic, we are now trying to return to face-to-face meetings. Some members still feel unable to meet in person and several have got new jobs. Therefore we are in the position of being able to offer new membership to anyone who would like to join us.

The group overall is in the 50+ age group although we do have younger members. There are more men than women and we would particularly welcome more women and people of colour.

Each meeting discusses a different book before broadening out to discuss wider issues of LGBTQ+ interest. Books chosen are by LGBTQ+ writers and/or contain LGBTQ+ themes. They cover a wide range of genres. The book choices are made by majority consensus from regularly updated lists compiled by members. A copy of our ongoing book choices since the group started in 2013 is available on request.

You are welcome to attend one of our meetings to see if Bards and Books is what you are looking for. Some of us have been members for nearly nine years and therefore have discussed around 100 books and are still coming back for more!

We also have a Podcasting project, and we’re looking for volunteers to assist with developing our website, so we can host our podcasts. You can hear some of our previous podcasts if you join our Facebook group:

Please contact Mary Dunne at if you are interested and would like further details.

Birmingham LGBT has signed up to this statement.

For a full list of signatories, visit

The England and Wales Census 2021- taking place on 21st March- will ask voluntary questions about your sexual orientation and trans status for the first time. This is a huge step forwards and has come about in part due to tireless campaigning from LGBT organisations and individuals. The inclusion of these questions represents a rare and valuable opportunity to ensure that LGBT communities are counted, which could have a significant impact on future support and recognition from Government and public bodies and services.

As this year’s Census fast approaches, we are calling on LGBT people across England and Wales to answer these important questions.

Currently, there are no robust figures on the number of LGBT people in England and Wales, and existing estimates vary greatly depending on the source. There is also a lack of data on inequalities faced by LGBT people in our nations. As a result, LGBT people’s experiences, and the inequalities affecting our communities, are often not truly recognised by Government and public bodies and services – and LGBT people are missing out as a result. A lack of data makes it harder to recognise and respond to the needs of LGBT communities, and makes it easier to downplay persistent LGBT inequalities.

The data collected through the Census will play an important role in addressing this gap. It will be of particular use to the LGBT sector as we demonstrate the need for national and local Government to increase investment into LGBT-specific support. In the past, Census data on age, ethnicity and a range of other characteristics has been key to evidencing a need for action, and we believe the same is true when it comes to tackling barriers faced by LGBT people.

We are aware that there are valid concerns around privacy and how your personal data is going to be used. We agree that privacy and data protection is of paramount importance and we can reassure our communities that your data will be kept safe and will not be misused. We will work closely with the ONS to ensure they make it clear how this personal data will be protected.

There are robust measures in place to ensure Census data is protected. It is a crime to share personal census information unless required or permitted by law. Laws in place that cover protection of your data include the Data Protection Act 2018, General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), Census Act 1920 and Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007. Personal data collected is owned by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) and personal Census data is not shared with any other Government departments, local councils or marketing agencies. Census data is kept confidential and no individual or their responses can be identified in the statistics that are published. Answers on the online questionnaire are protected during entry and passed into ONS systems through a secure transfer mechanism.  Within ONS systems the information is stored within a highly protected area with limited access and sophisticated monitoring to detect suspicious activity.

By answering the sexual orientation and trans status questions, collectively as a community we can play a vital role in ensuring the potential of the Census to improve the lives of LGBT people – and the services provided to us.

I was born to West Indian parents in Birmingham 1967, and from the age of five to 15 I was raised by my father and stepmother. My relationship with my stepmother was very turbulent from day one.  One of my earliest memories is of her calling me a “girl’s blouse” or a “puff” due to my keen interest in cooking from such a young age.

As the years passed, my brother would call me a “queer” or a “puff” in front of friends if I did not do as he said, which would often result in us fighting: under no circumstances was I going to let my brother think he could bully me like that in front of my friends! He continued with the name calling right up until a few years ago, when I stopped him in his tracks by telling him that he should be more concerned about who he is socialising and working with, because I know for certain at least five of his friends are “in the closet”.

When I was 15, my brother and I went to live with my grandmother and aunt in Highgate. I remember my aunt started going out and taking my younger male cousin with her. Little did I know she too was also keeping a secret: she was also gay. Still, I did not have the guts to confide in her about my sexuality due to her outing my cousin when they had a disagreement.

Two years later, my aunt found a partner, which meant that she wanted us out of her home. We were two 17 year olds, walking the streets with nowhere to go. I recall sleeping on benches and in a transit van.

At 18, I got a council flat in NecheIls, and was beginning to appreciate my independence, but still I could not fully be myself due to my brother’s comings and goings. He thought that because we were brothers he could just automatically come and live with me.

After a few years, I moved to Edgbaston and my eyes really opened. At this time there were no gay apps or internet, therefore meeting other gay people was done thorough placing advertisements in the lonely-hearts column or by word of mouth, or cruising. I was frequently asked by family and friends “when are you finding yourself a woman?” I always suspected that they might realise I was gay.

My mother died when I was 24. Before she died, I made my peace with her and forgave her for leaving my brother and I, and looking back I often thought: how the hell would I have coped with four children at the age of 19? She was only a young child herself and had no life. Before she died, out of the blue, she said that some men prefer men and some women prefer women, but so long as they were treating people with respect this should not be a problem. Sadly, she died about three weeks later. I consider this conversation as her giving me her blessing. From that day until now I have tried to live my best life.

I’d started going to Subway City on Thursday evenings. It was the first time in my life that I felt comfortable in my own skin and could mix with like-minded people. I would always see someone from my straight life who would ask me what I was doing in this club? My reply to them was: “same thing as you, I’ve come out for good night out”. My brother kept coming to my flat on Thursday evenings and I knew he was trying to catch me out. The night I said I was going out, and he could close the door on his way out, was the night he told my god-daughter (who was living with me at the time) that I was gay. I then felt pressured to come out to about 10 other people. This was the worst night of my life. I was on the phone for about 10 hours. Most people guessed what I wanted to say anyway!

Over the years I have known people of colour to have committed suicide because their families have disowned them when they came out. I have met married men of colour that are living double lives and, due to religion or having had children, are unable to be themselves.

When I came out, there were no centres like the Birmingham LGBT Centre, providing support for LGBT people, to take care of their mental, physical and cultural health. The staff that work there are either from the LGBT community or are LGBT-friendly and understand the stigma and prejudices that people from the LGBT community might face. I feel privileged to be working at the Centre with some amazing people that make a massive impact on the Birmingham LGBT community.

I have been raised in a culture where I was constantly reminded of how fair my brown skin was; and how lighter skin was more desirable than darker skin.

I still remember the coarse feeling of my grandmother trying to rub my face with her chunni (a long Indian head scarf). It one of my earliest and in later life fondest memories from my childhood. I asked my mother many years later why my Grandmother would do this; she explained that it was because I was very fair in colour and that my rosy cheeks really stood out. When I talk about these memories with my mother, she chuckles and often grabs my rosy cheeks and says “you are my ‘gora’ (white) golden child”. The Punjabis, I know, love their gold and fair skin.

When I used to talk to my mother about my anxieties about trying to be my authentic ‘gay’ self and the fear of others attacking me (us) verbally or physically because of my sexuality, she would talk about how, when she came to the UK, there was this idea of safety in numbers.

When I first came out, it was suggested that I move to London and that they will tell everyone I am not ready for marriage; and that I would fit in well with the ‘white’ community because I was so ‘westernised’ already. Colour of my skin was once again referred to. But I did not want to be a family secret and for it all be explained away as convenient truth to the local Punjabi community. I was a British born Indian with light brown skin that would go (and still does) a beautiful dark brown colour in the summer.

Due to marriage pressures, avoiding weddings and parties became a thing for me, and the gay scene became a new thing and a place to socialise freely; albeit ‘white’ people would fetish over my fair brown skin a lot, and ask me where I was from – a lot.

One of my first experiences was going to vibrant gay bar on Hurst Street for a drink. I remember seeing another ‘brown-ish’ person on their own (possibly South American) and after a short while I plucked up the courage and asked if they would like a drink. The response was bizarre and rather peculiar. The brown-ish person mumbled two words of English and then said a few more in another language and stormed off, swinging their desirable trendy bag over their shoulder. Charming I thought. I quickly finished my drink and left. I could feel the anxiety and whisky rising in my face – probably depositing on my now red rosy cheeks. I chuckled as I left and thought about my Grandmother.

Over the next few weeks I was trying to overcome my fears and decided to go back on the gay scene and try a few more bars. I headed to another gay bar but it looked less friendly from the outside. As I was walking to the entrance of this foreign new bar, I saw a handsome white guy outside. He came stumbling towards me (I thought my luck was in) but he came up to me angrily, right up to my face and shouted “We don’t want your sort here! You only want our men!” and told me to “f*** off!”.

I didn’t have the immediate courage to ignore him and felt very hurt. In an instant it reminded me of the days Indian men were being beaten up white racist Teddy Boys and Skinheads my mum used to warn me about. I walked away and flagged down a black cab, and once I was safely away, I slowly started to cry. The taxi man asked if I was okay and I said “No! Please can you take me back”. I confidently got out the black cab and the guy was still outside this new gay bar. He decided to hurl verbal abuse at me again. I decide to brush past him, ignore him and went straight into this new gay bar and it was fab! The first thing I noticed were all these white men gawping at me, probably at my fair brown-skinned face and red rosy cheeks.

I told my mother about the experience and she said to stay safe and stick to people you know and “… do you have to go to a gay bar?” I replied and explained “… do you wish me to go to the pubs where all the Indian men go, where I can’t be myself, or rather go to places where there is safety in numbers?” She replied “Go where you feel safe and you can be yourself, my beautiful ‘gora’ (white) golden child”.