In keeping with the CDC, HIV-positive individuals had been extra prone to be hospitalized with monkeypox
According to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people with HIV who contract monkeypox are more than twice as likely to be hospitalized as other patients diagnosed with the fast-spreading virus.
In a report released Thursday, the CDC found that 38% of the nearly 2,000 people diagnosed with monkeypox between May and July were living with HIV. Among 1,300 monkeypox patients with more detailed clinical data, 8% of HIV-positive people were hospitalized, compared with 3% of those without HIV infection.
The CDC found that HIV-positive people in particular who have low T-cell counts, indicating a weaker immune system, and who are not suppressing the virus are more likely to be hospitalized with monkeypox.
But data on the reason for hospitalization is incomplete, so it’s not known whether HIV-positive people hospitalized with monkeypox have a more serious illness, according to the CDC. People living with HIV in previous monkeypox outbreaks in Nigeria have had poor outcomes.
Monkeypox is primarily spread through sex among gay and bisexual men, although anyone can catch the virus through close physical contact with an infected person or through contaminated materials such as towels and bed sheets.
According to the CDC, men who have sex with men are more likely to be infected with HIV than the general population. But the 38% of monkeypox patients who also have HIV is far higher than the rate seen among the broader population of gay and bisexual men, the study found.
The percentage of monkeypox patients who have HIV has also increased over time, suggesting that monkeypox may be spreading more in networks of people living with HIV, according to the agency.
The CDC found a large racial disparity between people living with HIV and monkeypox. Black and Hispanic patients had monkeypox and HIV at far higher rates — 63% and 41%, respectively — than white patients, at 28%.
Monkeypox disproportionately affects black and Hispanic populations. According to CDC data, nearly 38% of monkeypox patients are black, 29% are Hispanic, and 27% are white. According to the 2020 Census data, the total population of the United States is 12% Black, 19% Hispanic, and 61% White.
People with HIV who also have monkeypox are more likely to report some symptoms, such as rectal pain and proctitis. Monkeypox causes a rash that resembles pimples or blisters and often develops on sensitive areas such as the anus or genitals.
The CDC officials who authored the study said vaccination against monkeypox should be prioritized for people who are HIV positive and have other sexually transmitted infections.
People screened for monkeypox should also undergo HIV and STI screening, the authors said. According to the CDC study, about 41% of monkeypox patients last year were diagnosed with one or more STDs. Healthcare providers should also offer patients medications, such as PrEP, to help lower their risk of contracting HIV through sex.
The CDC estimates that 1.6 million gay and bisexual men who are HIV-positive or who are taking medication to reduce their risk of HIV face the greatest threat from monkeypox. To date, more than 460,000 doses of monkeypox vaccine have been administered. Department of Health and Human Services officials said the US is nearing the point where enough doses are available to fully vaccinate the highest-risk population.
The US is battling the world’s largest monkeypox outbreak, with more than 21,000 reported cases in all 50 states, Washington DC and Puerto Rico, according to CDC data. White House health officials said Wednesday that the outbreak appears to be slowing as vaccination increases, although racial disparities in people diagnosed with monkeypox are growing.