HIV/AIDS Treating Skin Conditions: Lesions, Rashes, Kaposi Sarcoma

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Certain skin conditions may be the first indication of an HIV infection, the virus that causes AIDS. Most having HIV will get a rash or other skin condition at some time of the diagnosis. The virus attacks the immune system allowing germs to get in causing these skin problems.

As the disease progresses other problems with the skin occur. When people with this virus become very sick; showing certain infections or cancers, this has now become AIDS. AIDS (associated immune deficiency) became a global pandemic in the 1980s. HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) can affect anyone.

Some treatments consisting of medications (acyclovir) may even cause a rash (Photodermatitis) but the medication can be switched to another.

It is possible to have these conditions and not have HIV/AIDS. Many may however develop the following, especially Kaposi Sarcoma (also called KS) with HIV/AIDS.

Causes of HIV Skin Conditions

  • Immune system and HIV
  • Infections
  • Medications

Related Skin Conditions

Thrush is caused by the candida fungus (yeast) it is an infection occurring in the mouth. A common sign of Thrust is the presence of a creamy white, somewhat raised lesions occurring mainly on the tongue or inside of cheeks. It has however, appeared on the roof of the mouth, gums, tonsils or the back of the throat. These lesions may have an appearance resembling cottage cheese. They can be painful or bleed when scraped or brushed by a toothbrush or the teeth.

Candida infections can spread to the esophagus, lungs, liver and skin. Usually those with cancer, HIV, or other conditions with weaken immune systems develop these. Because the immune system is weakened these symptoms could be severe making them harder to manage.

Treatment: Prescriptions from the doctor for antifungal medications (tablets, lozenges or liquids) are usually taken for ten to fourteen days.

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Oral Hairy Leukoplakia an infection presenting in the mouth as white lesions on the bottom or sides of tongue. This may be one of the first signs of HIV/AIDS. The oral hairy leukoplakia is caused by the Epstein-Barr virus.

The lesions can be flat and smooth or raised and furry (hairy). They are not painful or uncomfortable so they usually don’t involve treatment. The lesions heal on their own but often come back. If necessary to treat oral hairy leukoplakia a medication for herpes is used (acyclovir).

Molluscum contagiosum an infection appearing as smooth white or flesh-colored itchy bumps found on face, lower belly, upper thighs and genitals. More than 100 can appear at once. Scratching these bumps can cause an infection. This is caused by a pox virus and is very contagious. As long as the bumps are visible the person remains contagious and this could last for years.

It is not dangerous and the bumps usually go away on their own not involving treatment. Although with a compromised immune system molluseum contagiosum can become very chronic and progressive.

If needed a doctor could scrap, laser or freeze (with liquid nitrogen) the unsightly rash to remove bumps. A drug such as retinoic acid or imiquimod ointment may be used. The best option is in treating the HIV to improve the immune system and heal the molluscum contagiosum.

Herpes simplex (HSV-1) type 1, usually appearing on or near the mouth (cold sore) and herpes simplex (HSV-2) type 2, usually appearing on or near the sex organs (also called genital herpes) are the two types.

The herpes virus is transmitted through close personal contact involving kissing or sexual intercourse. Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted disease or STD.

Once a person is infected the virus stays in the body dormant in the nerve cells until triggered. Having HIV can make these outbreaks worse and appear more often. A trigger can cause an outbreak of painful sores to appear. Herpes has no cure but the sores can be controlled with antiviral medication.

Shingles (also called herpes zoster or varicella zoster) is linked and very painful. It is an infection caused by the chicken pox virus. Having chicken pox in childhood may present as shingles as an adult. The virus can lay dormant in the nerve cells. It can become active again making a person very ill.

Early symptoms of shingles are a tingling feeling, itching, numbing and stabbing pain on the skin. In addition after a few days there is often a small fluid-filled, blistered, red rash along the side of the trunk or face (only appearing on one side of the body) with pain that could last several weeks.

Shingles along with other viral disease have no cure. It usually goes away on its own not involving any treatment, except with controlling symptoms. An antiviral medication can be prescribed to control the infection, reduce the severity along with the duration of the disease.

For help with the pain, an over-the-counter pain reliever, like ibuprofen, naproxen or acetaminophen, or a lidocaine topical patch may be suggested. A stronger pain reliever may be prescribed for severe pain and discomfort like codeine or oxycodone. There are vaccines to prevent this now.

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Seborrheic dermatitis is more likely with a compromised immune system. This is a common skin condition causing an itchy scalp (dandruff) with shedding or flaking of yellow or white scales. There also may be red and flaky skin on the face and upper chest. The cause is unknown.

Treatment: can consist of an antifungal cream or medicated shampoo for mild symptoms. For flares a steroid cream can help the swelling and redness.

Crusted scabies may be easily contracted by someone with HIV. Treatment should involve getting rid of the scabies.

Kaposi sarcoma is a kind of cancer lining the lymph and blood vessels caused by the human herpes virus 8. It is common among those with HIV/AIDS.

KS presents as purple or dark lesions on the skin found in mouth, nose and throat but can appear anywhere. The patches indicate that HIV has become AIDS. Due to a weak immune system which accompanies AIDS, KS can quickly move to other body parts, including internal organs.

Treatment: can involve surgery (cutting out the lesion and margin of skin), chemotherapy, radiation therapy or biologic therapy (boosting the immune system). The best option is to treat the HIV restoring the immune system enough to cure the KS.

Seek treatment that works for you, join support groups and take care of you by managing stress.

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Mary is the founder of All About Our Skin. Former esthetician and CPC. Enjoys researching skincare and has been studying our skin for the past fourteen years.
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2 thoughts on “HIV/AIDS Treating Skin Conditions: Lesions, Rashes, Kaposi Sarcoma”

  1. The question is: Is Sarcoma Kaposi contagious by touch?

    No, like it was a concern when AIDS began more studies have shown this is not quite the case. Touching a person with KS is unlikely to catch KS yourself.

    Kaposi Sarcoma (KS) is caused by HHV-8 virus this attacks a weak immune system and forms a type of cancer inside the body.

    It is now thought KS is mainly transmitted through ones saliva. This may be done during sex, also by wet kissing, oral sex and when using saliva as a lubricant with sex.

    KS may also be passed through transfusion of contaminated blood or tissue transplants. Please consult your doctor with any concerns.

    Thank you for your question visitor and take care.

  2. search was for acyclovir in treating HIV rash.

    Acyclovir is an antiviral drug prescribed as an oral treatment of herpes zoster in HIV-infected children.

    It also treats genital herpes, chicken pox, shingles and cold sores. Acyclovir works to decrease the virus from being able to multiply and this helps lessen the symptoms and pain associated with the sores or blisters speeding up the healing process.

    It does not cure herpes. Used to treat initial and recurrent episodes. Stay hydrated.

    Acyclovir is usually safe however if you have kidney disease, are pregnant or breast feeding you should talk to your doctor.

    If you have any concerns or questions about this or any other medication please consult your doctor.

    Thank you visitor.


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