What Skin Conditions does HIV Cause?

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HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is a sexually transmitted disease. People suffering with HIV have complaint that they are facing skin problems. HIV affects your immune system which in turn can cause several problems for all organs including your skin.

Skin conditions are very common in HIV patients and can be the earliest signs of HIV. HIV weakens your immune system thus making it more prone to infections like fungal, viral or bacterial it even increases the risk of cancer.

According to CDC (Centre for Disease Control and Prevention) there are almost 1.2 million people suffering from HIV in USA. HIV does not directly affect the skin but it reduces the ability of your body to fight infections.

Skin conditions caused by HIV usually show up in stage 1 to stage 3. Some HIV medications also have side effects that can also lead to different skin conditions.


The skin condition generally fall in the following categories:


1. Inflammatory dermatitis or skin rashes
2. Infections or infestations
3. Skin cancer

Inflammatory dermatitis: some of these are-

  • Xerosis – It is a type of skin dryness which common in both people with HIV and without. It appears as itchy, scaly patches on arms and legs. It can be caused by hot weather, exposure to sun or even hot showers. It can be treated by using moisturizers or required prescription medications.
Source: title- Atopic dermatitis child.JPG link: commons.wikimedia.org
Title: Atopic dermatitis Source : Wikipedia Commons
  • Atopic dermatitis – It is a chronic inflammatory condition that leads to red, scaly and itchy rashes. Unlike the one mentioned before it can appear on various parts of your body feet, hand, ankle, neck, wrist etc. It is a very common skin problem has affected more than 30% of people in USA. It can be treated by applying skin- repairing cream or anti- itchiness ointment.
  • Photodermatitis – it occurs due to UV rays from sunlight which can cause blisters, rashes or dry patches. This condition can also cause headaches, nausea and fever.

Infections– HIV can lead a number of infections some of the common ones are –

  • Syphilis – it leads to pain free sores or rashes on the genitals or inside of the mouth. A person can catch syphilis via direct contact like sexual contact. The second stage of syphilis includes sore throat, swollen lymph nodes. It is usually treated with an injection of penicillin.
  • Herpes – it is also known as shingles. It can result in painful blisters and rashes all over the skin. It is a pretty common skin condition. It can appear in the early stages or later stages of HIV. Treatment for herpes often involves anti- viral drugs. The pain can last longer than the lesions. There are vaccinations to prevent herpes.
  • Warts – Warts are growth on the top layer of the skin. They resemble a bump with a black dot. They are generally found on the back of your hand, nose or bottom of the feet. On the other hand, genital warts are darker or flesh colored and can be found on thighs, mouth, throat as well as genital area.

Skin cancer: HIV can make your body more prone to various kinds of skin cancer. Most common ones are –

Malignant Melanoma Mid Frontal Scalp
Title: Malignant Melanoma Source: Wikipedia Commons
  • Melanoma – is rare but a fatal form of skin cancer. It causes asymmetrical, colorful and large moles. Their appearance can change over time. Melanoma is an aggressive type of cancer. It can be treated with surgery.
  • Kaposi Sarcoma – it is very severe form of cancer. It directly affects the lining of blood vessels resulting in shortness of breath, difficulty breathing and swelling up of skin. They appear dark brown, purple or reddish. They can be treated through chemo therapy, radiation and surgery.

Some HIV medications can also cause skin lesions or rashes. Your risk towards them depends on the strength of your immune system. Treatment addresses each individual condition separately.

Professional help:

This article can help you learn more about HIV and skin conditions caused by it. If you are suffering with HIV or noticing any symptoms visiting a doctor or a health care provider can help you navigate what to do next. Getting diagnosed with HIV in the early stages gives you more chances of survival.

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