A Gay Doctor Talks Monkeypox | Crooked Media
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August 16, 2022
What A Day
A Gay Doctor Talks Monkeypox

In This Episode

  • The CDC recently reported that new monkeypox cases in New York City appear to be slowing down, though new cases are slowly rising nationwide. Dr. Carlton Thomas, an advocate for queer health and sex positivity, joins us to talk about the stigma surrounding the disease, and safer sex practices for people who are at higher risk for exposure.
  • And in headlines: President Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act into law, former Trump White House lawyers were interviewed by the FBI over sensitive documents recovered from Mar-a-Lago, and millions of Americans can soon buy a hearing aid without a prescription.


Show Notes:


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For a transcript of this episode, please visit crooked.com/whataday




Priyanka Aribindi: It’s Wednesday, August 17th. I’m Priyanka Aribindi. 


Josie Duffy Rice: And I’m Josie Duffy Rice and this is What A Day. Hoping that Liz Cheney continues to fight alongside the resistance as an unemployed millionaire in Wyoming. 


Priyanka Aribindi: I mean what else does she got to do? She’s got a bunch of money and she got a bunch of time. 


Josie Duffy Rice: She could hike. There’s some real hiking in Wyoming. 


Priyanka Aribindi: She could be a resistance mom. 


Josie Duffy Rice: The worst kind of resistance mom you know. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. No. I mean, is there is is. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Is there a good kind? Good point. [music break]


Priyanka Aribindi: On today’s show, President Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act into law. Plus, the FBI interviewed two former White House lawyers about declassified documents found in Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate. 


Josie Duffy Rice: But first, we turn now to the latest on monkeypox and some welcome news. The CDC recently reported that new cases in New York City where more than 2000 people have already been infected, appear to be slowing down, although nationwide, new cases are slowly rising. Good for New York. Bad for everywhere else.


Priyanka Aribindi: Yes. Meanwhile, there is still a limited supply of vaccines and a whole lot of drama. Getting these shots into arms. It’s almost as if we learned nothing from COVID 19, because this vaccine rollout is really a shit show as well. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, there have been multiple instances where shipments of the monkeypox vaccine never made it to their intended final destination. For example, about 5000 doses that were supposed to end up in Florida somehow ended up in Oklahoma. Okay. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Very different places. So. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah. 


Priyanka Aribindi: It doesn’t feel like an easy mistake to make. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Honestly, who hasn’t written down Oklahoma when they meant Florida and some 800 shots that were sent to Minnesota were deemed unusable because the shipment was in transit for too long, dwindling the vaccines past their expiration date. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, Josie has some thoughts on expiration dates. 


Josie Duffy Rice: I do. And I just want to say, didn’t we learn that expiration dates are kind of made up? 


Priyanka Aribindi: I’m like mmm, hmm? 


Josie Duffy Rice: I feel like a slightly expired vaccine is better than none. 


Priyanka Aribindi: In all seriousness, as frustrations about a lack of resources to keep people safe continue to mount. There are also efforts underway to stop the stigma surrounding this disease. So, Josie, can you tell us a little more about what’s happening on that front? 


Josie Duffy Rice: Many advocates say we need to change the name. That discussion has been going on for a while because critics say it’s misleading since the disease didn’t start with monkeys. Good point. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, fair. 


Josie Duffy Rice: And the World Health Organization is on board with changing the name too. The WHO actually asked the public to submit recommendations for some new names. Nobody told me. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Why would you ever do that?


Josie Duffy Rice: See, opposite reactions. My first thought was, why didn’t anybody tell me. 


Priyanka Aribindi: We, we shouldn’t be the ones? You have that job for a reason. 


Josie Duffy Rice: I will think of some great names for monkeypox. So some of the names that came in were serious and others were not so serious, Priyanka. A few of our favorites include Poxy Mac Pox Face and Trump 22. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Oh. 


Josie Duffy Rice: And that is an acronym for, quote, Toxic Rash of Unrecognized Mysterious Providence of 2022. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Oh. Okay then. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Okay. The word providence. We’re doing a lot with that. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Doing a lot of work there. Yeah. You know what? I thought we were uh trying to stop a stigma. I feel like this is uh causing a whole different kind. I don’t know if it is–


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, no. If you want to stop this stigma. You don’t call it poxy mac pox face, you know? 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. No, that just doesn’t feel the most helpful. 


Josie Duffy Rice: But at least you’re not involving, like, some random animal that doesn’t have anything to do with it. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. Monkey is fairly harmless as far as I knew. 


Josie Duffy Rice: True. Okay, but on a serious note, changing the name really can only do so much to properly educate people about the disease and make sure that they stay safe. Because unfortunately, it is hitting one community especially hard and that is a group health officials dub men who have sex with men. 


Priyanka Aribindi: So we wanted to speak with an expert on this topic to cut through some of the misinformation that is out there and continues to kind of swirl. So yesterday, Josie, I had the chance to speak with Dr. Carlton Thomas or Dr. Carlton, as he’s known on TikTok and Instagram. Dr. Carlton practices in San Diego and is an advocate for queer health and sex positivity. He’s a member of the LGBTQ+ community himself, and he speaks really openly and honestly about, you know, a ton of different issues. Like they range from everything, including brace yourself, anal fissures from sex. 


Dr. Carlton Thomas: It feels like your pooping razor blades and can put you out of commission for weeks to months and even require surgery. Who’s got time for that? 


Priyanka Aribindi: But lately, he has been using his social media platform to spread the word about monkeypox vaccination in recent months. So I started out by asking him who is most at risk for the disease and why. 


Dr. Carlton Thomas: Over 95% of cases are being spread through men who have sex with men community. So gay, bisexual men, trans folks, mostly through sexual activity. It can be spread other ways. And that’s where I think a lot of the right wing media is twisting this. When kids get infected or animals get infected, they automatically jump to, oh, well, gay people are having sex with kids. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Right. 


Dr. Carlton Thomas: And that is not the case. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Right. 


Dr. Carlton Thomas: And I can put a lot of ease in the fear of the community right now and the hysteria, because the vast majority of infections are happening that way. Yeah, there are a few cases here and there, at least right now, a few cases here and there of other people getting it. But it’s very much the minority of the situation right now, and I hope that we can keep it that way. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Right. Definitely. So how does the panic kind of in the general population about this make things more difficult for the LGBTQ+ community? 


Dr. Carlton Thomas: When there is panic among the general community about an infection happening in the LGBTQ community, there is discrimination and stigma that happens that. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Right. 


Dr. Carlton Thomas: There’s already been violence against gay people over monkeypox. There’s you know a couple in Washington, D.C. who got attacked. And then on top of that, you know, I’ve even heard straight people say, Oh, I went to an Elton John concert with my gay friends. And then after the concert I was supposed to go to a house party and the people at the house party said, We don’t want you here because you’ve been with the gays, we don’t want monkeypox. So that kind of stupidity and narrow mindedness is harking us back to the days of early AIDS. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Right. On the other hand, you know, the messaging has been a real challenge as well, because the CDC has said that officials should emphasize that anyone can get monkeypox because anybody can. This isn’t just geared towards one subset of people and they want to avoid contributing to the stigma. What is your take on that? 


Dr. Carlton Thomas: Well, I think we have to be careful with that as well. The messaging needs to be clear to our community. Most of the cases are happening, so we need to step up and take action to protect ourselves, to get vaccinated, and to take a pause until we can get vaccinated and get enough antibodies in our system to be safe. So while I understand the fear and the stigma, at the same time, we also need to be personally responsible to do our part to protect ourselves and each other and our community. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Totally and from your perspective, what’s the best way to talk about monkeypox without contributing to the stigma? 


Dr. Carlton Thomas: Talking about the way it’s actually spread, you know, how it’s mostly through close, intimate contact, whether it’s sexual or cuddling or prolonged skin to skin contact. So far, the CDC is saying that it’s happening through skin to skin contact during sex as sort of the main driver here. But there’s evidence that it may be more the fluids. We’re still trying to figure that out. The data is horrible on all fronts right now, but talking about practicing safer sex methods, reducing partners, taking a pause, getting vaccinated, remaining upbeat and positive about it. And I think when the messaging comes from someone like me within the gay community who is a gay man, who is a doctor, who is very sex positive on the Internet. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. 


Dr. Carlton Thomas: When it comes from a voice like mine, people don’t take it as stigma and homophobia. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Right. 


Dr. Carlton Thomas: They take it as, hey, there’s one of us saying that this is what we should do. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Totally. 


Dr. Carlton Thomas: So this is what we should do. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, it seems a little bit different. I mean, earlier this summer, the World Health Organization was urging men to sleep with fewer men. And I am not in the LGBTQ community. I’m not in the business of telling people what they should and shouldn’t be doing in terms of that aspect of their life. But what’s your realistic advice to your patients who are queer about their sexual practices right now? Do you have any for them or no? 


Dr. Carlton Thomas: Yeah, I think avoiding bathhouses, avoiding orgies, avoiding random sex hookups. I think that you can still have sex in a healthy way. You could build a little sex pod of people who are going to stay true to the sex pod and not stray out of it so that you keep each other safe. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Right. 


Dr. Carlton Thomas: Or if there is an infection within the pod, at least it stays within the pod. So masturbation, cam sex, virtual sex, phone sex. It’s just sticking to your boyfriend or your partner even instead of playing more randomly just in the temporary side of things until we get past this hump of needing more vaccine coverage. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Sure. And there’s been this discourse kind of online about whether or not monkeypox should be classified as an STI, a sexually transmitted infection. Infectious disease doctor Joseph Cherabie recently tweeted, quote, “The whole discourse of whether monkeypox is an STI or not wouldn’t matter if we didn’t attach so much stigma to STIs and sexual health in general”. So can you walk us through, you know, whether or not you find that to be a productive discussion? 


Dr. Carlton Thomas: I think that what he said nails it on the head. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Mm hmm. 


Dr. Carlton Thomas: We attach so much stigma and shame to STIs when they’re just infections. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Right. 


Dr. Carlton Thomas: You know, it can happen to anyone. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. 


Dr. Carlton Thomas: So it’s no judgment on anyone. But because society tend to put that stigma and shame on STIs, that’s why this is a problem. It’s all semantics. Who cares if it’s an STI or not? Right now it’s being sexually spread. It can be spread other ways. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Right. 


Dr. Carlton Thomas: But that still doesn’t change my recommendations to my community. And good news today, there’s numbers that have shown that the curve is flattening and going down in New York City. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Oh wow!


Dr. Carlton Thomas: And in Europe. So things are happening. People are paying attention. People are getting vaccinated. People are starting to make those behavior changes. So we’re on the downward swing. If we can continue what we’re doing now and don’t get lackadaisical like we did with COVID, I think we can really nip this in the bud. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, you are bringing up my next question. So, I mean, we learned pretty much nothing from COVID. 


Dr. Carlton Thomas: Right. 


Priyanka Aribindi: And we currently lack the resources here in the U.S. to fight monkeypox. And one of your most commonly asked questions right now is just where can I find a vaccine for this? So for the people listening who are maybe wondering this for themselves, what is your answer? 


Dr. Carlton Thomas: Right now, most places are just vaccinating men who have sex with men. There are some places that are opening up a little bit more to lab workers and health care workers who deal with people who have monkeypox. There are some centralized sites that you can use. StopMonkeyPox.org is a Google doc that has centralized vaccine clinics around the country that an Instagramer called Grant Roth put up. And that’s been amazing. Chicago has its own site that a gay guy who’s an engineer who had COVID and was bored during the pandemic put up Chicago.care where you can get any appointment in any section of Chicago for vaccines and for testing. Also on my Instagram, a lot of people feed me clinics that I post in my stories, and I also post in my highlight section. Monkey Pox one, two, three, four, five, six. That you can go through and try to find a vaccine clinic that way. But the best bet is through your local health department or state health department. Go to their internet portals, your city health department. That’s where you’re going to find most of the vaccine clinics. 


Priyanka Aribindi: And Josie that was my conversation with Dr. Carlton Thomas. 


Josie Duffy Rice: We’ll link to some of those resources in our show notes and we’ll be sure to keep following monkeypox news. But that is the latest for now. We’ll be back after some ads. 




Priyanka Aribindi: Let’s get to some headlines. 


[sung] Headlines. 


Priyanka Aribindi: President Biden signed the massive $370 billion dollar Inflation Reduction Act into law yesterday. It deals with more than inflation, though. It tackles health care costs as well and is one of the biggest advancements on climate change in decades. 


[clip of President Biden] With this law, the American people won and the special interests lost. 


Priyanka Aribindi: But we should note that to get this bill passed, Democrats did make concessions that allow for more oil and gas drilling in the Gulf and in Alaska. Make sure to get the full rundown of what is in the new law on the latest episode of Hot Take. There is a lot in there. A lot. Sounds great on paper. But, you know, healthy skepticism, always a good thing. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Absolutely. So there is a really tragic story to tell you about in western Florida where an unnamed 16 year old girl is about 11 weeks pregnant and seeking an abortion. On Monday, a state appeals court ruled against the girl because, as one judge put it, she is not, quote unquote, “mature enough to decide”. Florida has a law that says pregnant minors seeking an abortion must get consent from a parent or guardian. But the girl in this case has no parents. And she said her guardian was, quote, “fine with her decision”. On Monday, the appeals court agreed with the lower court that found that the girl could not make this decision about her own body. The judges also got technical on this child by saying that while the Guardian’s okay was written into her petition, it was not valid because it was in the wrong place on the form. 


Priyanka Aribindi: That is insane. Like absolutely insane. 


Josie Duffy Rice: The girl can appeal her case again, but the literal clock is ticking. She’s 11 weeks pregnant now, and last month after Roe was overturned, Florida enacted a law that bans abortions after 15 weeks. 


Priyanka Aribindi: It’s a horrifying, horrifying story. A follow up on the mysterious Mar-a-Lago papers. Former Trump White House counsel Pat Cipollone and his deputy, Patrick Philbin were interviewed by the FBI about how more than a dozen boxes of classified documents ended up at Trump’s residence in Palm Beach. The New York Times reports that they were tapped to deal with the National Archives about handing over presidential documents just before Trump ended his term. The Archives reached out to Philbin when they noticed that some things were missing, but Trump reportedly sealed his fate by telling both men, quote, “It’s not theirs. It’s mine”. Great. That is how things are decided, I suppose. FBI has contacted multiple people who used to work for Trump when he was president, as well as members of his current staff. Though Cipollone and Philbin are, as far as we know, the most senior former Trump officials that the agency has questioned so far. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Sending shockwaves through the industry of sound waves was a decision yesterday by the Food and Drug Administration to allow some hearing aids to be sold over-the-counter without a prescription. The rule change could take effect as soon as October, and it could have a huge impact on expanding access to hearing aids, which are so expensive that 80% of the 30 million American adults with hearing loss go without them. 80%. The FDA estimates that the new rule could reduce the price of hearing aids by about $2800 a pair by offering flexibility to consumers and encouraging competition among manufacturers. Who knew that hearing aids were so expensive? 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. In the process of reading this headline, I learned– 


Josie Duffy Rice: Right. 


Priyanka Aribindi: That hearing aids actually range from $1500 bucks to $5,000 dollars. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Right. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Which is crazy. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Really remarkable. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Like that seems like something we should all know. 


Priyanka Aribindi: And on the topic of expanding access to cutting edge medical technologies. This week, Scotland became the first country in the world to offer free tampons and other period products to people who need them. This is part of a global effort to end quote, “period poverty”, a term that describes the inability to afford menstrual products and the resultant economic vulnerability experienced by people who menstruate. Scotland’s parliament approved legislation to fight period poverty back in 2020, and now people will be able to just grab the products that they need in the country’s pharmacies. You could try this in the US too. And if the people at Walgreens give you a hard time, just remind them that you are abiding by Scottish law. 


Josie Duffy Rice: That’s so convenient because that’s what I say every time I take something from Walgreens anyway so.


Priyanka Aribindi: Just grab it off the shelves. You’re fine.


Josie Duffy Rice: Just grab it off the shelves. The Scots said it was fine. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, this is an amazing, amazing development for them and uh I wish that was the case for us because uh that stuff is expensive. 


Josie Duffy Rice: It’s so expensive. It would be so smart and convenient. 


Priyanka Aribindi: To have them everywhere. 


Josie Duffy Rice: To have them everywhere. 


Priyanka Aribindi: To have them readily accessible and for free. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Right. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Incredible. 


Josie Duffy Rice: That would be remarkable. In Australia, a trend even more controversial than quote unquote “quiet quitting” is quiet working five secret jobs while you are also the prime minister. 


Priyanka Aribindi: This is a crazy story. 


Josie Duffy Rice: This trend was apparently pioneered by the country’s former leader, Scott Morrison, who it has just been revealed was also officially the minister of Health, Finance, Home Affairs, Treasury and Industry between March 2020 and May 2021. That is over a year. 


Priyanka Aribindi: And a time that not many people were ramping up the amount of work that they were trying to do. Really working hard from home, like that was just not my vibe. 


Josie Duffy Rice: So our first question is obviously, how could this happen? And our second question is, does Australia’s Government have like rules or like? [laugh] Is like anything written down is there a law? Do they just make it up as they go? Is it vibes like? 


Priyanka Aribindi: I like that for them. 


Josie Duffy Rice: I just have questions about like how the government works. Uh, Morrison is defending this move, citing the extraordinary circumstances of the pandemic and saying, quote, “I took the precaution of being given authority to administer various departments of state should the need arise due to incapacity of a minister or in the national interest”. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Okay. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Well like, those are two different things, like. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Very. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Incapacity of a minister is like kind of specific, in the national interest feels like you can interpret that however you want baby. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Anyway you want. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah. Apparently Morrison was indeed sworn into these cabinet roles, but without the knowledge of the public or the knowledge of the ministers whose jobs he was taking over. Incredible. So bold. So crazy.


Priyanka Aribindi: Wild. Wild.


Josie Duffy Rice: Morrison lost his election this May and was replaced in his successor, slamming his turn as Australia’s first mega minister. Current Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said yesterday, quote, “This has been government by deception”. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Very. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Is everything in Australia an unpaid internship, including being Prime Minister? Because that is the vibe I am getting. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Perhaps. And those are the headlines. One more thing before we go. Tune in to the Keep It episode, That thing you Xanadu do, as Ira and Louis are hopelessly devoted to highlighting the legacy of the one and only Olivia Newton-John. They also discussed their favorite dance songs, HBO Max’s disastrous rebrand and more. Tune into new episodes of Keep It every Wednesday wherever you get your podcasts. That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe. Leave a review. Give up one of your five jobs as an Australian minister and tell your friends to listen. 


Josie Duffy Rice: And if you’re into reading and not just low hearing aid prices like me, What A Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at Crooked.com/subscribe. I’m Josie Duffy Rice. 


Priyanka Aribindi: I’m Priyanka Aribindi. 


[spoken together] And continue abiding by Scottish law.


Priyanka Aribindi: Free tampons for everybody. Walk into your local stores and just grab em’. If we all do it. There’s nothing they can do. 


Josie Duffy Rice: And also invite us to Scotland so we can learn first hand. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, we’d do so well there. Live What A Day in Scotland.


Josie Duffy Rice: Oh my god, incredible. Great time. [music break]


Priyanka Aribindi: What A Day is a production of Crooked Media. It’s recorded and mixed by Bill Lancz. Jazzi Marine and Raven Yamamoto are our associate producers. Our head writer is Jon Millstein and our executive producer is Leo Duran. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.