Monkeypox and safer sex

Advice to help reduce the risk of monkeypox transmission

Monkeypox can be transmitted through close personal contact, including sex

What is monkeypox?

Monkeypox is a rare viral infection.

Anyone can get monkeypox. However, currently most of the cases across Europe and the UK have been in gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (GBMSM).

The risk of getting monkeypox in Scotland currently remains low.

Read further information about monkeypox, including symptoms and what to do if you're worried you may have it

How is monkeypox transmitted?

You can get monkeypox through close personal contact with someone who has the infection, such as during sex. This includes:

  • oral, anal, and vaginal sex or touching the genitals (penis, testicles, labia, and vagina) or anus of a person with monkeypox
  • hugging, massage, and kissing, especially if topless or naked
  • touching fabrics and objects during sex that were used by a person with monkeypox and that have not been disinfected, such as bedding, towels, fetish gear, and sex toys

This means that condoms are unlikely to offer protection against monkeypox but are still recommended as they can help prevent passing on sexually transmitted infections.

If a person has monkeypox, their coughs and sneezes can also transmit the infection to those who are close by. Sharing towels or touching the bedlinen of someone with monkeypox could also pass it on.

How to reduce the risk of transmission

At events

Consider how much close, personal, skin-to-skin contact may happen at any event you plan to attend. If you feel sick or have any rashes or sores, do not attend any gathering. Speak to your GP or local sexual health clinic.

Festivals, events, and concerts where you're fully clothed and unlikely to have skin-to-skin contact are safer. But be mindful of activities (like kissing) that might transmit monkeypox.

A rave, party, or club where there's less clothing and where there's direct, personal, often skin-to-skin contact has some risk. Avoid any rashes or sores you see on others. Consider avoiding touching others where possible.

Enclosed spaces, such as back rooms, saunas, or sex clubs, where there is minimal or no clothing and where intimate sexual contact occurs, have a higher chance of monkeypox transmission.

If you feel unwell, take a break from parties, club nights, saunas or events until you feel better. If you think you have symptoms of monkeypox, contact your sexual health clinic right away.

Having sex

Talk to your partner about any recent illness. Be aware of new or unexplained sores or rashes on your body or your partner’s body, including the genitals and anus.

If you or your partner have recently been sick, currently feel sick, or have a new or an unexplained rash or sores, do not have sex. Speak to your GP or local sexual health clinic.

If you or a partner has monkeypox, the best way to protect yourself and others is to not have sex of any kind (oral, anal, vaginal). Do not kiss or touch each other’s bodies while you're sick, especially any rash or sores. Do not share things like towels, toothbrushes, fetish gear and sex toys.

Have sex in places with enough light to be able to see visible signs of monkeypox.