Update | 13 Jan 2023
MPOX information for people living with HIV in Australia – what you need to know.
What is MPOX?
MPOX (formerly known as MonkeyPox) is a viral infection that does not spread easily between people and is usually associated with travel to Central or West Africa, where it is endemic. It is spread by skin-to-skin contact with someone who has MPOX, including during sex and through sexual networks.
Since mid-2022, there has been a global increase in MPOX cases reported from multiple countries where MPOX is not usually seen. Most of the cases are in men who have sex with men.
MPOX is usually a self-limited disease with the symptoms lasting from 2 to 4 weeks. Severe cases can occur.
How is MPOX Transmitted?
MPOX is transmitted through close physical contact with someone who has the virus – in particular through sexual or intimate contact. While MPOX is not classified as a sexually transmitted infection (STI), sexual contact with someone who has the virus poses a high risk of transmission. Bodily fluids (such as fluid, pus or blood from skin lesions) and scabs are particularly infectious. Ulcers, lesions, or sores in the mouth can also be infectious, meaning the virus can spread through saliva.
Initial symptoms can include fever, headache, muscle aches, low energy, and swollen lymph nodes (similar to COVID or the flu) before progressing to a skin rash or lesions. The rash usually begins within one to three days of the start of a fever. The rash or lesions can also be found on the face, arms, and legs as well as in the mouth and around the genitals/anus.
Because MPOX rashes can resemble some STIs (for example herpes), it is important to contact your GP or local sexual health clinic and let them know about your symptoms when you make an appointment.
The incubation period (the time from infection to the onset of symptoms) of MPOX is usually 7-14 days, but it can be as short as 1-2 days or as long as 21 days.
While symptoms are typically mild, for some people with moderate to serious cases MPox can be quite painful.
How is MPOX Treated?
Most people with MPOX have a mild illness meaning that it resolves within a few weeks without specific treatment.
There are some therapies available for the treatment of MPOX, particularly for people at high-risk such as those who are immunosuppressed.
HIV and MPOX
We know that people living with HIV do make up a higher than expected number of cases from outbreaks in Europe and the Americas. Why this is isn’t well understood, as most is based on research in countries where access to HIV treatment is low, which is very different to how we manage HIV in Australia.
At the moment people living with HIV should follow the same advice as the general population.
Should evidence emerge that people with suppressed immune systems are at greater risk of MPOX, or ill-health from catching the virus, then updated information and advice will be made available.
We encourage any gay, bisexual or MSM person living with HIV to consider MPOX vaccination. (See Vaccination section below). Other people living with HIV who are concerned about MPOX should speak with you HIV GP to find out more information.
Further information about HIV and MPOX here https://www.aidsmap.com/about-hiv/mpox-monkeypox-and-hiv
A safe and effective vaccine that protects against monkeypox is available now. These vaccines are safe for people living with HIV.
The vaccine is provided free of charge. Maximum protection requires 2 doses of vaccine given at least 28 days apart. It takes 2 weeks for each dose of vaccine to reach the highest level of protection in your body. Vaccinate ahead of travel and party events and as soon as possible in your state or territory.
States and territories are responsible for rolling out the vaccine in their jurisdiction, including how and where it will be available and who gets access.
Click here to find a service, anywhere in Australia https://emen8.com.au/find-a-service/
Recently returned from overseas? Or heading overseas soon?
People who have recently returned from overseas, have attended any dance parties, sex parties or saunas – especially in Europe – and who develop any of these symptoms, particularly an unusual rash, should seek medical advice immediately.
If you are planning to travel overseas…
If you are planning to travel overseas, it is important to stay informed and remain aware of developments. The situation with MPOX is changing rapidly.
- Follow public health alerts and advice from local health authorities of the countries you are visiting.
- If visiting festivals or large events, keep alert of any event updates (before and after) from organisers.
Be aware and exercise caution if you plan to attend sex parties or SOPVs, particularly in places where there are identified cases of MPOX.
You can reduce your risk of contracting MPOX by:
- Avoiding contact, including sexual contact, with people who are unwell or have compatible symptoms.
- Avoid skin-to-skin contact, particularly with any rash or lesions.
- Avoid contact with clothing, bedding or objects that have been in contact with or used by people with MPOX.
As always, practice good hygiene, self-isolate if unwell and seek medical attention if you develop any symptoms.
NAPWHA is continuing to monitor developments and will provide updates to our communities as the situation evolves.
Other MPOX Information and Resources
Information and research regarding MPOX is emerging, and regularly updated. Below is a list of trusted links to evidence-based resources to stay up to date with MPOX in Australia and globally.