New research shows people living with HIV are twice as likely to be hospitalized if they get monkeypox.
As a growing number of people with HIV contract monkeypox, the Centers for Disease Control and prevention is trying to figure out if simply having HIV puts people at a higher risk of catching it.
It also appears those with HIV who do get infected with monkeypox are at a higher risk of a more serious case.
In North Carolina, WRAL Data Trackers found that people who already have HIV make up more than 50% of all monkeypox cases.
Monkeypox cases in North Carolinians with HIV
As of today, there are 399 cases of monkeypox in North Carolina.
At least 209 of them are among people living with HIV. That’s more than 52% of cases.
Monkeypox is primarily spread during sex among gay and bisexual men. However, anyone can get the virus through close physical contact — or through contact with contaminated materials such as towels and bedsheets.
The World Health Organization says those with HIV and weakened immune systems are a greater risk.
That is why health officials are urging vaccination.
“In some of the initial reports and subsequent reports from Europe and the United States, 40% or so have been in people with HIV infection,” says Dr. David Wohl, professor of medicine in the division of infectious diseases at the University of North Carolina.
He said researchers don’t yet know whether people with HIV have a lowered immunity to monkeypox, whether they have more risky behaviors or both.
“We don’t know,” he says. “I would expect someone with HIV who has a good immune system should not be more susceptible with monkeypox, so I have a feeling this is more to do with exposure.”
The CDC says the vaccine is safe for people with HIV.
Earlier this week, North Carolina expanded eligibility for monkeypox vaccinations beyond just men who have sex with men. The vaccine is now available to anyone who has close contact in the past two weeks with someone previously diagnosed with monkeypox.