What Does an HIV Rash Look Like?
Usually HIV infection leads to a brief period of symptoms shortly after infection occurs. Not everybody notices these symptoms, and theyre easy to mistake for a cold or the flu. One of the symptoms may be a rash.
The most common HIV rash occurs shortly after infection. It is an itchy rash that usually appears on the abdomen, face, arms, or legs and features a flat, red area covered in small red bumps.
Acute HIV Infection Rash
A rash is one of the earliest symptoms of HIV. It develops during acute HIV infection, which occurs just after contracting the virus. A rash is just one of the many possible symptoms of acute HIV infection, which include:
- Sore throat
- Joint and muscle aches
- Night sweats
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Swollen tonsils or mouth ulcers
These symptoms may begin a few days after being exposed to HIV, but they typically become most noticeable about two to four weeks after infection occurs. They can last anywhere from a few days to several weeks or months.
An acute HIV infection rash and other symptoms of this stage of infection can easily be confused for other ailments or conditions, like the flu or a cold. As a result, many people dont realize that they have HIV.
If you experience an unexplained rash and you have potentially been exposed to the virus, get tested for HIV as soon as possible. Be extra cautious about having safe sex since if you do have an acute HIV infection the viral load is very high during this stage, and youre more likely to pass the virus on to your partners. If youve been taking PrEP and find out you have HIV, you need to stop taking it right away to avoid other health complications.
HIV can also cause a variety of other rashes which may vary in size and appearance. Some of these rashes are directly related to HIV infection, while others are indirectly caused by medications or other infections and health conditions. Its important to learn when and why these rashes develop since certain types may signal a serious health concern.
The late stage of HIV infection occurs when HIV progresses to AIDS. Typically, AIDS is diagnosed when CD4 levels fall below a certain level or the person develops opportunistic infections, including infections which may cause rashes like herpes, Kaposis sarcoma, and shingles.
One of the primary signs and symptoms of AIDS is a rash which may consist of:
- Bumpy skin
- Red, pink, brown, or purplish blotches on the skin
- Blotches under the skin or inside the eyelids, nose, or mouth
- White spots or unusual blemishes in the throat, in the mouth, or on the tongue
Other symptoms of AIDS besides the rashes described above include:
- Dry cough
- Night sweats
- Rapid weight loss
- Recurring fever
- Extreme or unexplained fatigue
- Swollen lymph glands in the neck, armpits, or groin area
- Persistent diarrhea
- Memory loss
- Neurological disorders
There is no cure for AIDS, but doctors may be able to treat certain opportunistic infections to alleviate rashes associated with these conditions.
Rashes Caused By Another Infection or Condition
Rashes associated with HIV can develop indirectly as the virus weakens the immune system. HIV destroys the cells of the immune system that are designed to fight infections, so if you are exposed to another virus, you may be more likely to become infected. If youre susceptible to rashes due to other conditions, you may experience more of these rashes because your immune system is already compromised.
Possible causes of rashes include:
- Psoriasis, eczema, cellulitis, and other skin conditions
- Bacterial or fungal infections
- Herpes and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
- Allergic reactions
- Insect bites or stings
The severity of your rash may depend on how healthy your immune system is. People with HIV need to monitor their health very closely, so its wise to make an appointment with your medical provider if you notice a rash developing. In addition, try to avoid itching the skin where the rash is since broken skin could increase the risk of infection.
Rashes Caused By Reactions to Medication
Another possible cause of a rash that develops when someone has HIV is a reaction to a medication. In fact, a rash is one of the most common side effects of antiretroviral (ARV) medications used to treat HIV.
Rashes that develop due to HIV medications are usually not serious. Monitor the rash for several days to see if it goes away without treatment. If it does not, you may need to switch to a different type of medication or be tested for other possible causes of rash, such as a bacterial infection.
While most of the rashes that develop from taking ARV meds are harmless, its very important to be aware of a condition called Stevens-Johnson Syndrome (SJS). This is a rare but potentially fatal skin rash that may develop when taking certain HIV medications. The symptoms of SJS include:
- Fever, headache, and other flu-like symptoms
- Painful, itchy skin
- A skin rash consisting of red, blistered spots
- Peeling skin that develops into painful sores
- Blisters in and around the mouth, nose, eyes, genitals, or mucous membranes
If you experience symptoms of SJS, seek immediate medical care by visiting an emergency room or calling
Of course, other medications besides HIV meds have the potential to cause a reaction like a rash. If you start taking any new medications, be sure to watch for the development of rashes or other unusual symptoms. In addition, you should work closely with your doctor to make sure any medications you take will not interfere with your HIV treatment.
Other Symptoms to Watch For
Since an HIV rash signals a problem with the bodys immune system, many people will experience other symptoms along with a skin rash. These symptoms may include:
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Flu-like symptoms, such as the chills, achy muscles, and a general feeling of illness
If your rash is especially large or causes swelling, you might also experience issues with mobility or getting around.
Treatment for HIV Rashes
Rashes that occur during acute HIV infection typically go away without treatment within a few weeks. Those that develop as a result of other conditions or taking certain medications can usually be treated, or your doctor may advise you to wait for them to disappear on their own. However, since this virus weakens the immune system, infectious rashes may be more likely to reappear.
Keep an eye on any rashes and see a doctor if you have any unusual symptoms or skin conditions that are especially persistent or irritating. If you develop rashes similar to those associated with SJS or AIDS, seek medical attention as soon as possible.
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A Timeline of HIV Symptoms
7 to 14 Days After Exposure
Known as acute retroviral syndrome, or ARS, the acute stage occurs immediately after being infected, when the immune system has yet to control the virus. During this time, an estimated 40 percent to 90 percent of people will experience mild to moderate flu-like symptoms, whereas the rest won’t experience any symptoms at all.
Although these signs typically appear within 7 to 14 days of exposure, they can also crop up as early as 3 days. Around 30 percent of people with ARS will develop a maculopapular rash of pink to red bumps, usually on the upper half of the body. The rash will gradually converge into larger, raised hives.
Other common ARS symptoms include:
- Sore throat
- Muscle aches
- Joint pain
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Night sweats
14 to 28 Days After Exposure
By around day 14, the virus will begin to stop multiplying rapidly. Although some people can experience ARS symptoms for up to three months, most people will start feeling better within two weeks, as the immune system gradually brings the infection under control.
The exception: a symptom called lymphadenopathy, the sometimes painful swelling of lymph nodes in the neck, behind the ears, under the armpits, or in the upper groin (or inguinal) region. Even when the other symptoms have disappeared, lymphadenopathy may continue for months or even longer.
"The important thing to remember is that the resolution of symptoms does not mean the infection is gone," says Dennis Sifris, MD, an HIV specialist with the Lifesense Disease Management Group, located in South Africa. "HIV is not like hepatitis, which can spontaneously clear. HIV is forever and is better treated sooner rather than later."
29 Days to 20 Years After Exposure
The chronic stage of infection occurs once the immune system brings the virus under control. During this phase, HIV will go into hiding, where it resides in various cells and tissues throughout the body in a dormant state known as latency. HIV latency can persist without symptoms for 10 years or more, although some people may experience signs within a year or two.
During the early chronic phase, lymphadenopathy may be the only notable sign of an HIV infection. In some cases, the glands may be visibly enlarged and reach up to an inch or more in size. If the condition persists for more than three months, it’s referred to as persistent generalized lymphadenopathy (PGL).
Even during latency, the virus will multiple imperceptibly and gradually deplete immune cells known as CD4 T-cells. As immune deficiency develops, a number of nonspecific symptoms are likely to appear, including:
- Oral candidiasis (thrush), a fungal infection that causes the formation of creamy, white lesions on the sides of the tongue and lining of the mouth
- Unexplained fevers and drenching night sweats that soak through bedsheets and nightclothes
- Severe, uncontrolled diarrhea that lasts for more than three days
Each of these symptoms is commonly seen in persons with immune deficiency. They may, in some cases, be caused by HIV itself or by an infection that has yet to be diagnosed.
Later-Stage HIV and AIDS
If left untreated, HIV will almost invariably lead to symptomatic disease. There is no timeline or pattern as to when this might occur. Generally speaking, the lower a person’s immune health (as measured by the CD4 count), the greater the risk of illness. We refer to these illnesses as “opportunistic” because they are harmful only when a person’s immune defenses are down.
At a certain point, if still untreated, the depletion of CD4 T-cells can lead to a stage of disease called AIDS, or acquired immunodeficiency syndrome. This is when the most serious opportunistic infections tend to occur. AIDS is officially defined as either having a CD4 count under or the presence of at least one of 27 different AIDS-defining conditions as outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Symptoms in later-stage HIV and AIDS include viral, bacterial, fungal, and parasitic infections as well as cancers (like invasive cervical cancer and non-Hodgkin lymphoma) and idiopathic disorders of unknown origin. These infections affect the organs and other areas of the body, including:
On This Page: Symptoms | How to Know | AIDS Rash | Other Rashes | Treatment
Most people living with HIV experience a rash at some point. A rash is an irritated area of skin that can be itchy, red, and/or painful. HIV/AIDS does not cause a single type of rash.This is because HIV weakens the immune system and can trigger a variety of skin reactions.1
The most common HIV rash develops soon after infection on the face, abdomen, arms, or legs. However, HIV rashes can also show up on any part of the body and during the later stages of HIV infection. Some rashes are directly related to HIV, while others develop because of conditions caused by HIV, or are side effects of certain medications.
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Rashes in people with HIV can be caused by:2
- Acute HIV infection
- Other infections
- HIV medicines
- Other medicines being taken
Acute HIV Infection Rash
A rash is often one of the earliest symptoms of HIV. It occurs during acute infection, which is the first stage that happens after contracting the virus. A rash is one of the many possible symptoms of acute infection, and not everyone shows the same symptoms (or any symptoms at all).
HIV Rash Symptoms & When It Appears
The rash is often a slightly raised area of skin thats usually covered with small red bumps. Usually, the rash is:
- On the face or trunk, and sometimes on the hands and feet
- Red on people with light skin or more purple on people with dark skin
In addition to the rash, the first signs of HIV can include:3
- Upset stomach
- Sore throat
- Swollen glands
- Swollen tonsils or mouth ulcers
- Muscle aches
- Joint pain
- Night sweats
These symptoms usually happen within 2 to 4 weeks after contracting HIV and can last anywhere between a few days and several weeks. However, some people can go months, even years, without showing symptoms.
Approximately 90% of people with HIV develop skin changes and symptoms during the course of their disease.4 These skin conditions usually fall into three categories:
- Inflammatory dermatitis, or skin rashes
- Infections or infestations, including bacteria, viruses, fungi, or parasites
- Skin cancers
How Do You Know You Have HIV?
Like other early signs of HIV, a rash is easy to disregard or mistake as a symptom of other conditions. HIV can also cause various other rashes, which may vary in size and appearance.If you are concerned you have HIV, getting tested is the best way to know for sure. The sooner you know if you have HIV, the sooner you can get HIV treatment to manage the condition and protect your health.
If you do have an acute HIV infection, during this stage, the virus reproduces rapidly and the viral load (the amount of HIV in the blood) is very high. This means its easier to spread HIV to other people.
AIDS is the last stage of HIV infection when the virus has progressed so far that CD4 levels fall below a specific level, or the person develops opportunistic infections, which may cause rashes or skin changes.5
These opportunistic infections include:
- Herpes simplex virus (HSV-1 & HSV-2) the virus that causes cold sores or genital herpes
- Kaposis sarcoma the most common AIDS-related cancer (may cause reddish-purple skin lesions)
- Shingles a reactivation of the chickenpox virus (may cause a painful rash or blisters)
There is no single type of rash specific to AIDS because there are a variety of opportunistic infections that can cause different skin changes.
What Does It Look Like?
A person with AIDS may develop many types of rashes, which can consist of:
- Bumpy skin
- Red, pink, purplish, or brown blotches on the skin
- Blotches under the skin
- Blotches inside the eyelids, nose, or mouth
- White spots or unusual blemishes on the tongue or in the mouth or throat
If the rash is severe or causes swelling, some people may also experience mobility issues.
Other AIDS symptoms aside from rashes include:6
- Persistent diarrhea
- Dry cough
- Rapid weight loss
- Recurring fever
- Night sweats
- Extreme and unexplained fatigue
- Swollen lymph nodes in the neck, armpits, or groin
- Bad yeast infections
- Memory loss
- Neurological disorders
Theres currently no cure for AIDS, but certain opportunistic infections are treatable. Therefore, a doctor may be able to alleviate rashes caused by these conditions.
Rashes Caused by Other Infections or Conditions
Rashes associated with HIV can develop indirectly because the virus weakens the bodys immune system. HIV compromises the bodys ability to defend against infections it normally would be able to fight off, so its more likely someone with HIV may become infected. If you have other conditions that make you prone to rashes, they may be exacerbated by your HIV infection, and you may experience more frequent and more severe rashes.
Possible causes of rashes include:
- Psoriasis, eczema, cellulitis, or other skin conditions
- Bacterial or fungal infections
- Molluscum contagiosum
- Herpesviruses, like shingles (herpes zoster) and oral/genital herpes simplex outbreaks
- Kaposi sarcoma
A rashs severity may vary depending on how healthy your immune system is. People living with HIV should monitor and manage their health and let a doctor know if they develop any skin changes.
Rash Caused by HIV Medicines
Many medicines, including those used to treat HIV, can trigger rashes. The HIV medication known as antiretroviral therapy (ART) helps many people with HIV live longer, healthier lives. However, a skin rash is a common drug side effect. Inflammation can also happen as the immune system revives during ART.
Usually, a rash caused by HIV medicine is not serious. Typically, it goes away without treatment within several days or weeks. If you have a rash, dont cut back or stop taking your HIV medicine without consulting a doctor.
Sometimes when a certain HIV medicine causes a rash, you may need to switch to a different HIV medicine. If you have a rash along with fever, headache, tiredness, muscle pains, abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting, these may be signs of a hypersensitivity reaction, which is a potentially serious allergic reaction to medicine. An allergic reaction may happen when starting a new antiretroviral medication or after a few weeks of taking it. Hypersensitivity reactions have been reported when taking several HIV medications.7
A rash can be a sign of a severe hypersensitivity reaction known as Stevens-Johnson syndrome (SJS) . This occurs rarely, but it can be life-threatening.
Stevens-Johnson syndrome causes skin tissue to die (necrosis) and detach. SJS is characterized by its raw and angry symptoms. Several days before the rash appears, a person may have a fever and flu-like symptoms (body aches, cough, tiredness).8 Within a few days, a person with SJS develops:
- A red or purplish rash that spreads, blisters, and peels
- Blisters on the skin and mucous membranes (eyes, mouth, nose, genitals)
If you have symptoms of SJS, its important to see a doctor immediately. They can determine the severity of the condition. Treatment may involve stopping the use of triggering medication and starting certain therapies, treatments, and infection prevention.
Rash Caused by Other Medicines
As mentioned previously, many medicines may cause rashes as a side effect. These may include medication you take to manage opportunistic diseases or other, unrelated conditions. Its important to talk to your doctor about the medicine you take so you can be aware of potential side effects.
Should You Be Concerned?
Dont assume you have HIV just because you have a rash. An HIV rash can be similar to rashes caused by many other factors and illnesses. But if you think you may have been exposed to HIV (for example, through unprotected vaginal or anal sex), its a good idea to get an HIV test in order to easily tell if you have the virus.
Rashes that occur because of acute HIV infection usually go away without treatment. Rashes caused by other conditions can usually be treated. Depending on whats causing the rash, over-the-counter drugs such as hydrocortisone cream or diphenhydramine (Benadryl) may help reduce the rashs size and itchiness.
While an HIV rash may go away, the virus weakens the immune system, which means infectious rashes may be more likely to reappear. In addition, HIV can cause serious health complications and be life-threatening if left untreated. Knowing your status empowers you to seek antiretroviral treatment to keep yourself and your partner(s) healthy.
Rashes as a side effect of medication can be treated or, depending on the severity, your doctor may suggest switching medicine. In these cases, discontinuing a triggering medicine can clear up the rash, but it should only be done as directed by a doctor. If youre taking HIV medicine or another medicine, keep an eye out for rashes or other side effects and talk to a doctor if you begin to experience them. If you show signs of SJS, seek immediate medical attention.
You can minimize irritation by:
- Not taking hot showers or baths
- Staying out of direct sunlight
- Paying attention to potential allergens (for example, a new soap or a particular food)
- Avoiding scratching, because broken skin can increase the risk of infection
Medically Reviewed byJ. Frank Martin JR., MD on February 7,Written by Taysha on January 20,
7 Signs That You May Have HIV
No Signs At All
As counterintuitive as it might seem, the most likely symptom of HIV is no symptom at all. This is particularly true during the early stages of the disease, where as many as two out of three newly infected individuals will be wholly unaware of their infection.
That's not to say that these very same people might not suspect thatthey've been exposed to HIV. In many cases, if a person has had unprotected sex, he or she might worry for a couple of weeks. Then, if nothing happens and there are no signs of illnesses, the person assumes that everything is A-OK.
It's important to never assume that not having symptoms is the same thing as not having HIV. If you're ever in doubt, get tested right away. It's easy, it's confidential, and it will get rid of the stress of not knowing.
And, if you ever fear that you've been exposed to the virus, don't wait to take action. Drugs called post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) are available, which may avert infection if they're taken less than 72 hours after unprotected sex or other high-risk activities.
HIV Healthcare Provider Discussion Guide
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On groin rash hiv
This article was co-authored by Dale Prokupek, MD. Dale Prokupek, MD is a board certified Internist and Gastroenterologist who runs a private practice based in Los Angeles, California. Dr. Prokupek is also a staff physician at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and an associate clinical professor of medicine at the Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). Dr. Prokupek has over 25 years of medical experience and specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of diseases of the liver, stomach, and colon, including chronic hepatitis C, colon cancer, hemorrhoids, anal condyloma, and digestive diseases related to chronic immune deficiency. He holds a BS in Zoology from the University of Wisconsin – Madison and an MD from the Medical College of Wisconsin. He completed an internal medicine residency at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and a gastroenterology fellowship at the UCLA Geffen School of Medicine. This article has been viewed 1,, times.
Updated: August 27,
Categories: Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)
The content of this article is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, examination, diagnosis, or treatment. You should always contact your doctor or other qualified healthcare professional before starting, changing, or stopping any kind of health treatment.
Rashes and Skin Conditions Associated with HIV and AIDS: Symptoms and More
When the body’s immune system is weakened by HIV, it can lead to skin conditions that cause rashes, sores, and lesions.
Skin conditions can be among the earliest signs of HIV and can be present during its primary stage. They may also indicate disease progression, as cancers and infections take advantage of immune dysfunction in later stages of the disease.
About 90 percent of people with HIV will develop a skin condition during the course of their disease. These skin conditions usually fall into one of three categories:
As a general rule, skin conditions caused by HIV are improved with antiretroviral therapy.
Dermatitis is the most common symptom of HIV. Treatments normally include one or more of the following:
Some types of dermatitis include:
Xerosis is skin dryness, which often appears as itchy, scaly patches on the arms and legs. This condition is extremely common, even in people without HIV. It can be caused by dry or hot weather, overexposure to the sun, or even hot showers.
Xerosis can be treated with moisturizers and lifestyle changes, such as avoiding long, hot showers or baths. More serious cases may require prescription ointments or creams.
Atopic dermatitis is a chronic inflammatory condition that often causes red, scaly, and itchy rashes. It can appear on many parts of the body, including the:
- inside of the knees and elbows
It affects about of people in the United States, and it appears to be more common in dry or urban environments.
Atopic dermatitis can be treated with corticosteroid creams, skin-repairing creams known as calcineurin inhibitors, or anti-itch medications. Antibiotics may be prescribed for infections. However, recurrence is common in people with HIV.
Seborrheic dermatitis mostly affects the face and scalp, resulting in redness, scales, and dandruff. The condition is also known as seborrheic eczema.
While it occurs in around 5 percent of the general population, the condition is seen in 85 to 90 percent of people with HIV.
Treatment helps to relieve symptoms and typically consists of topical methods, such as antidandruff shampoos and barrier repair creams.
Photodermatitis occurs when UV rays from sunlight cause rashes, blisters, or dry patches on the skin. In addition to skin outbreaks, a person with photodermatitis might also experience pain, headaches, nausea, or fever.
This condition is common during antiretroviral therapy, when the immune system becomes hyperactive, as well as during severe immunodeficiency.
Eosinophillic folliculitis is characterized by itchy, red bumps centered on hair follicles on the scalp and upper body. This form of dermatitis is found most frequently in people in later stages of HIV.
Oral medications, creams, and medicated shampoos may be used to help manage symptoms, but the condition is typically difficult to treat.
Prurigo nodularis is a condition in which lumps on the skin cause itchiness and a scab-like appearance. It mostly appears on the legs and arms.
This type of dermatitis affects people with extremely compromised immune systems. Itching can become so severe that repeated scratching causes bleeding, open wounds, and further infection.
Prurigo nodularis can be treated with steroid creams or antihistamines. In severe cases, a healthcare provider may recommend cryotherapy (freezing the lumps). Antibiotics may also be prescribed for infections caused by intense scratching.
DID YOU KNOW?
Photodermatitis is most common in people of color. People of color are also more likely to develop prurigo nodularis.
A number of bacterial, fungal, viral, and parasitic infections affect people with HIV. The most commonly reported infections include:
Syphilis is caused by the bacterium Treponema pallidum. It leads to painless sores, or chancres, on the genitalia or inside the mouth. The secondary stage of syphilis also results in sore throat, swollen lymph nodes, and rash. The rash won’t itch and typically appears on the palms or soles.
A person can only contract syphilis through direct contact, such as sexual contact, with syphilitic sores. Syphilis is usually treated with an injection of penicillin. In the case of a penicillin allergy, another antibiotic will be used.
Because syphilis and HIV share the same risk factors, people who receive a syphilis diagnosis may want to consider an HIV screening test as well.
HIV can lead to oral thrush, a type of skin infection caused by the fungusCandida albicans (C. albicans). This recurrent infection causes painful cracks at the corners of the mouth (known as angular cheilitis) or a thick white layer on the tongue.
It occurs at lower CD4 cell counts. The preferred treatment method is antiretroviral therapy and an increase in the CD4 count.
Other fungal infections seen in people with HIV include:
A variety of antifungal medications can be used to treat these infections.
Other treatments for thrush include oral rinses and oral lozenges. Vaginal yeast infections can also be treated with alternative remedies such as boric acid and tea tree oil. Tea tree oil is a popular remedy for nail fungus as well.
Herpes zoster virus (shingles)
Herpes zoster virus is also known as shingles. It’s caused by the varicella-zoster virus, the same underlying virus as chickenpox. Shingles can lead to painful skin rashes and blisters appearing. It may appear when a person is in the early or late stages of HIV.
A person diagnosed with shingles may want to consider an HIV screening test if their HIV status is unknown. Shingles is more common and more severe in people living with HIV, especially those with more advanced forms of HIV.
Treatment often involves antiviral drug regimens. However, pain related to the lesions may persist long after the lesions heal.
People at high risk for shingles may want to discuss the vaccine with their medical provider. Since the risk of shingles increases with age, the vaccine is also strongly recommended for adults over
Herpes simplex virus (HSV)
Chronic and persistent herpes simplex virus (HSV) is an AIDS-defining condition. Its presence indicates that a person has reached this most advanced stage of HIV.
HSV causes cold sores on the mouth and face as well as genital lesions. Lesions from HSV are more severe and persistent in people with advanced, untreated HIV.
Treatment may be administered episodically — as outbreaks occur — or on a daily basis. Daily treatment is known as suppressive therapy.
Molluscum contagiosum is characterized by pink or flesh-colored bumps on the skin. This highly contagious skin virus often affects people with HIV. Repetitive treatments may be necessary to completely rid the body of these unwanted bumps.
Bumps caused by molluscum contagiosum are usually painless and tend to appear on the:
The condition can be present at any stage of HIV, but the rapid growth and spread of molluscum contagiosum is a marker of disease progression. It’s often seen when the CD4 count dips below cells per mm3 (which is also the point when a person will be diagnosed with AIDS).
Molluscum contagiosum doesn’t cause any significant medical complications, so treatment is primarily cosmetic. Current treatment options include freezing the bumps with liquid nitrogen, topical ointments, and laser removal.
Oral hairy leukoplakia
Oral hairy leukoplakia is an infection that’s associated with the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). If a person contracts EBV, it’ll remain in their body for the rest of their lives. The virus is usually dormant, but it can be reactivated when the immune system is weakened (as it is in HIV).
It’s characterized by thick, white lesions on the tongue and is likely caused by tobacco use or smoking.
Oral hairy leukoplakia is typically painless and resolves without treatment.
Although direct treatment of the lesions isn’t required, people with HIV may consider ongoing antiretroviral therapy regardless. It’ll improve the body’s immune system, which may also help the EBV go dormant.
Warts are growths on the top layer of the skin or mucous membrane. They’re caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV).
They usually resemble bumps with black dots on them (known as seeds). These seeds are commonly found on the back of the hands, the nose, or the bottom of the feet.
Genital warts, however, are usually dark or flesh-colored, with tops that look like cauliflower. They can appear on the thighs, mouth, and throat as well as the genital area.
HIV-positive people are at an increased risk of anal and cervical HPV, so it’s important that they undergo more frequent anal and cervical Pap smears.
Warts can be treated with a few procedures, including freezing or removal via minor surgery. However, HIV makes it much harder for the immune system to get rid of warts and prevent them in the future.
HIV-positive and HIV-negative people alike can reduce their risk for genital warts by receiving the HPV vaccine. The vaccine is only administered to people age 26 and younger.
HIV increases a person’s risk of certain types of cancer, including a few that affect the skin.
People with HIV may be more likely than the general population to develop basal cell carcinoma (BCC) and squamous cell carcinoma (SCC). BCC and SCC are of skin cancer in the United States. However, they’re rarely life-threatening.
Both conditions are associated with past sun exposure and tend to affect the head, neck, and arms.
A Danish of people living with HIV found increased rates of BCC in HIV-positive men who have sex with men (MSM). Increased rates of SCC were also observed in people with low CD4 counts.
Treatment consists of surgery to remove the skin growths. Cryosurgery may also be performed.
Melanoma is a rare but potentially fatal form of skin cancer. It usually causes moles that are asymmetrical, colorful, or relatively large. The appearance of these moles may change over time. Melanoma can cause bands of pigmentation under the nails as well.
Melanoma may be more aggressive in people living with HIV, especially those with fair complexions.
Like carcinomas, melanoma is also treated with surgery to remove the growths or cryosurgery.
Kaposi sarcoma (KS)
Kaposi sarcoma (KS) is a form of cancer that affects the lining of the blood vessels. It appears as dark brown, purple, or reddish skin lesions. This form of cancer can affect the lungs, digestive tract, and liver.
It may cause shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, and swelling of the skin.
These lesions often appear when the white blood cell (WBC) count drops dramatically. Their appearance is often a sign that HIV has turned into AIDS, and that the immune system is severely compromised.
KS responds to chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery. Antiretroviral medications have significantly reduced the number of new KS cases in people with HIV as well as the severity of existing KS cases.
Talk to a healthcare provider
If a person has HIV, they’ll probably experience one or more of these skin conditions and rashes.
However, getting diagnosed in the early stages of HIV, starting treatment soon after, and adhering to a treatment regimen will help people avoid the more severe symptoms. Keep in mind that many skin conditions associated with HIV will improve with antiretroviral therapy.
Side effects of HIV drugs
Some common HIV medications can also cause rashes, including:
Based on their environment and the strength of their immune system, an individual can have more than one of these conditions at the same time. Treatment might need to address them individually or all at once.
If a rash is present on the skin, consider discussing symptoms with a healthcare provider. They’ll assess the type of rash, consider current medications, and prescribe a treatment plan to relieve the symptoms.
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HIV Symptoms in Men: Can It Cause a Rash on the Penis?
A rash is often one of the early signs of HIV. It typically appears after a fever and other flu-like symptoms. This rash usually lasts about a week.
Although an HIV rash tends to appear on the upper body and face, it can appear anywhere on the body, including the penis.
What are the effects of HIV?
HIV is a chronic virus that weakens the immune system. It’s usually transmitted via sexual contact. Although a cure for HIV isn’t available, its symptoms are treatable. If HIV isn’t treated, the virus can lead to stage 3 HIV, also known as AIDS.
A person can have HIV for several years before it progresses to AIDS. However, the longer someone waits to start treatment, the greater the risk to their health.
If a person develops AIDS, it means their immune system has become severely weakened. This makes them vulnerable to opportunistic infections, such as Pneumocystis jirovecii pneumonia or toxoplasmosis. AIDS also makes them vulnerable to typical infections, such as community-acquired pneumonia and cellulitis. Although these infections can be harmful to anyone, they can be especially harmful to a person living with AIDS.
What are some other symptoms of HIV?
Within a couple of weeks of contracting HIV, a person may develop symptoms that are a lot like those caused by the flu. These symptoms include:
Sometimes, people with HIV mistake these symptoms for the flu and put off seeing a healthcare provider.
Sores or ulcers
Some people develop sores or ulcers after contracting HIV. These sores are often painful and can appear on the:
Like a rash that can appear on the penis, these sores or ulcers usually show up within a month after HIV is contracted. Not all HIV-positive people get these sores, though.
Swollen lymph nodes
Lymph nodes in the neck and armpit may also swell soon after HIV is contracted. While the flu-like symptoms and rash may disappear on their own, swelling of certain lymph nodes may last for a long time. This can continue even after a person starts treatment.
Lack of symptoms
It’s also possible to have a mild case of HIV. A mild case may not produce a rash or other obvious symptoms soon after transmission.
What will happen at the healthcare provider’s office?
A rash on the penis isn’t enough to diagnose HIV or any other condition. For example, a yeast infection can cause a red rash to appear on the penis. It can also cause the tip of the penis to feel itchy. Although women are much more likely to develop yeast infections, men can get these infections, too.
Regardless of the cause, a healthcare provider should evaluate a rash on the penis. If a person has other symptoms of HIV, they should be sure to explain those symptoms to their healthcare provider. This knowledge can help the healthcare provider make a diagnosis.
The only way to confirm the presence of HIV is through a blood test. If a person has a known risk factor for HIV and thinks they’ve been exposed to the virus, they should consider scheduling an appointment with their healthcare provider.
What does an HIV blood test entail?
For a long time, HIV could only be diagnosed through a blood test that looked for antibodies to the virus. After exposure to the virus, it can take several weeks for the body to produce HIV antibodies. This means that HIV may not be detected if a person is tested too soon after possible exposure.
HIV also produces a protein known as p24 antigen, or HIV antigen. It appears very soon after transmission. A blood test for the HIV antigen is available. It can confirm whether someone has HIV within 15 to 20 days after a sexual encounter.
If a person has a rash on their penis and an HIV test comes up negative, their healthcare provider may have them take a urine test to look for a possible yeast or fungal infection.
How is this rash treated?
If a rash on the penis isn’t related to HIV, a healthcare provider will likely recommend an over-the-counter or prescription medication or ointment to relieve symptoms. The recommended medication depends on whether the rash is:
If the healthcare provider determines that a person has HIV, one of the next steps will be to discuss treatment options. The standard treatment for HIV is called antiretroviral therapy. It includes a combination of medicines taken daily to help reduce the amount of HIV in the body. It can’t eliminate the virus, but it can minimize the level of circulating virus. Minimizing the amount of virus present in the body can help ensure that an HIV-positive person is better protected against other infections.
If the virus is suppressed to the point that it becomes undetectable, it becomes virtually impossible for an HIV-positive person to transmit the virus to someone else. This is the message of Undetectable = Untransmittable, or (U=U), a campaign by the Prevention Access Campaign.
What’s the outlook for people with HIV?
With treatment, an average rash will generally go away in one or two weeks.
If a person has been diagnosed with HIV, their healthcare provider will work with them to start a treatment regimen. Controlling HIV and preventing it from progressing to stage 3 HIV requires a daily dedication to antiretroviral therapy. People living with HIV should also consider using condoms during sex and avoiding behaviors that could put them and their health at risk.
Successful HIV management demands a good working relationship and open communication between an HIV-positive person and their healthcare provider. If a person living with HIV doesn’t feel they’re getting the answers they want from their healthcare provider, they might want to seek out a new one who has experience working with HIV-positive people.
How can HIV be prevented?
People at increased risk for HIV may want to explore the medication pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). The US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) now recommends this daily pill for all people at increased risk for HIV.
People can also limit their chance of exposure to HIV by wearing a condom during intercourse and engaging in other practices that help prevent STIs. For example, it can be beneficial to talk about HIV testing before engaging in sexual activity with a new partner. Partners can consider going together to get tested.
In cases of mixed-status couples, the partner with HIV should consider moving forward with treatment. They should also consider speaking with a healthcare provider about ways to prevent their partner from contracting HIV. When an HIV-positive person is consistent about antiretroviral therapy and is able to maintain an undetectable viral load, they become incapable of transmitting the virus to a partner. Taking medication can then become an important prevention strategy.