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HIV Skin Symptoms

By Lee Woodard ; Updated July 27, 2017

Persons infected with human immunodeficiency virus, HIV, are susceptible to the same skin disorders and conditions as any other person, but there are some skin disorders that occur more frequently in those infected with HIV. In adults infected with HIV, these skin disorders that are often associated with HIV will not be present until the HIV has developed into early AIDS, according to Cure Research.

HIV Infection

When exposed to HIV, there will be an initial phase of infection that occurs within 1-2 months of exposure; this is the sero-conversion period in which the body reacts to the presence of the virus, according to the Australasian College of Dermatologists. Some people will experience no outward symptoms during this period, and others may experience flu-like symptoms, tiredness, fever, headache and/or enlarged lymph nodes, according to Cure Research.

The Australasian College of Dermatologists advises that during the sero-conversion period, some people will experience a generalized red rash on the body, which begins on the upper body and spreads downward. The rash has the appearance of measles and may or may not be itchy , according to the Australasian College of Dermatologists. Sometimes the rash is present on the palms of the hands. If this occurs, there will be peeling of the skin on the palms. Mouth and genital ulcers may also occur.

A latent period will follow the initial phase, during which the virus remains in the body but is dormant. This latent phase may last from months to a decade or more. The only symptoms during this phase may be enlarged lymph nodes.

Early AIDS

During this phase of the disease, flaky skin is one of the dermatological symptoms, according to Cure Research. Shingles (herpes zoster) and sores on the mouth or genital region from Herpes Simplex I and Herpes Simplex II are frequently seen in people in this stage of AIDS.

Thrush of the mouth, groin, armpits or vagina occurs more frequently in HIV-infected people than the general population, according to Australasian College of Dermatologists.

Another fungal infection more common with HIV infection is tinea, which may cause widespread infection of the skin or conditions such as athlete's foot, jock itch, infection of the nails, hands or head.

Kaposi's Sarcoma

Kaposi's sarcoma is a cancer that occurs in response to infection with the human herpesvirus 8 , according to Merck Manual. While people who are not infected with HIV may also develop Kaposi's sarcoma, the condition not only strikes those with AIDS more frequently than non-infected individuals; it is also more virulent.

The skin lesions of Kaposi's sarcoma are flattened areas of skin which may be pink, purple or red initially, but they converge into blue-black areas of skin that are thickened or bumpy,

Lesions in the mouth are bluish to purplish colored and appear as thickened areas, bumps or tumors.

Other Skin Disease

For those infected with HIV, there may be an exaggerated reaction to insect bites, with severe itchiness, redness and large red lumps that may blister and present in crops. These symptoms last longer than in people without this skin disease, papular urticaria, according to the Australasian College of Dermatologists.


As is true with many diseases and conditions, not all people will present with all the symptoms of HIV/AIDS. The presence of some symptoms associated with early HIV exposure and/or early development of AIDS may or may not be indicative of HIV infection. Likewise, absence of some of the symptoms, especially with known or suspected exposure to HIV, does not indicate absence of infection.

Only a healthcare provider can determine whether or not HIV infection is present and whether it has developed into AIDS.

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