A recent study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has found that monkeypox disproportionately affects people with HIV and sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
The study looked at HIV and STI rates among 1,969 people with monkeypox in eight U.S. jurisdictions.
Of that sample, 38 percent of people with monkeypox had also contracted HIV in the last year. About 41 percent of people with monkeypox also had an STI in the preceding year. About 61 percent of the sample had contracted either an STI or HIV in the previous year.
Researchers said this correlation doesn’t necessarily mean that having HIV or an STI means you’re more likely to contract monkeypox.
In fact, the higher number may be due to a “self-referral bias,” meaning that people who visited a medical professional due to monkeypox symptoms may also already have established healthcare for HIV and STIs. Either that, or sexual health providers may be more likely to recognize and test for the monkeypox virus among men who’ve had HIV and STIs over the past year.
“Persons with monkeypox signs and symptoms who are not engaged in routine HIV or sexual health care, or who experience milder signs and symptoms, might be less likely to have their Monkeypox virus infection diagnosed,” researchers wrote.
HIV-positive people in the study sample were also twice as likely to be hospitalized due to monkeypox compared to HIV-negative people with monkeypox, WTTW reported.
This could mean that people with compromised immune systems — the kinds associated with advanced and under-treated forms of HIV — are more likely to exhibit severe monkeypox symptoms. Despite this, people with HIV aren’t more likely to exhibit worse monkeypox symptoms than HIV-negative people in the general population, according to Dr. Aniruddha Hazra, assistant professor of infectious disease and global health at UChicago Medicine.
The study also found HIV was more prevalent among Black and Latino people with monkeypox, with rates of 63 percent and 41 percent, respectively. These rates were higher than the 28 percent of white people and 22 percent of Asian people who have both HIV and monkeypox.
These racial disparities are particularly concerning considering that numerous studies have shown that Black and Latino men are less likely than white men to be vaccinated against monkeypox and to have access to HIV-related medical care.
In response to the study’s findings, the CDC recommended that medical professionals prioritize people with STIs and HIV for monkeypox vaccination. Additionally, the CDC recommended offering STI and HIV screenings for people who are evaluated for monkeypox.
This last week, White House health officials voiced their belief that “we’re going to get very close” to eradicating monkeypox. As of September 23, there were 24,846 total confirmed monkeypox cases in the United States, the CDC reported.