HIV is a condition where the human body develops a range of symptoms. In most people with HIV, the HIV rash is common and develops usually within the first two months of developing the virus. HIV rash is often seen as an indicator of the individual having the HIV virus.
What is HIV Rash?
HIV rash refers to dark and pigmented rashes which occur in people with the HIV virus. It occurs in the early stages of HIV usually but can also develop in the latter stages as well. HIV rash is generally itchy in nature.
How does HIV Rash Look like?
The HIV rash appears as a cluster of slightly raised bumps. They may be reddish in color on light skin and purplish in color for darker skin. They affect the upper part of the body mostly, the shoulders, torso, chest and trunk. However, you can also find them on the face, genitals, hands, and feet and sometimes in moist areas like the eyes and mouth. The rashes however do not spread through contact and are therefore not contagious.
HIV Rash Diagnosis
It is important that the rashes should be examined by a doctor. Skin rashes often seem alike and they may all not be due to HIV. Often it may seem like molluscum contagiosum or the herpes virus. The doctor will be able to diagnose whether the rash is actually a symptom of HIV.
However, the sooner the diagnosis is done, the better it is. Medication can control the virus. If left untreated, the infection can develop into AIDS.
HIV Rash Differential Diagnosis
As many rashes look the same, there is a chance that this rash can be confused with other conditions.
- Difference between HIV rash and heat rash – Heat rash tends to have tiny bumps and may have fluid present in them. HIV rash usually does not have fluids in them.
- Difference between HIV rash and acne – Acne depends on the color of the skin. However, the best way to know if the breakout is of acne or of an underlying HIV infection is to get it tested.
- Difference between HIV rash and chicken pox – Chicken pox bumps form a crust over days. The lesions typically appear on the face and trunk and then spread to other parts of the body. HIV rash may look similar but does not form a crust.
- Difference between HIV rash and hives – Hives are generally larger than the bumps of HIV rash. They are also predominantly red in color and have a swollen experience which HIV rash does not have.
HIV Rash Symptoms
- The rash can be flat on the skin’s surface or slightly raised.
- The bumps can often resemble eczema.
- The color of the rash is mostly red but can sometimes be pink or purple.
- They are usually itchy as a reaction to medication.
- Some rashes may be mild but some are serious and can be life threatening.
- They can cause skin peeling, blisters and sores.
- Other symptoms of HIV infection such as weight loss, fatigue, diarrhea, joint pain, fever, allergies, chills and inflammation of glands can accompany it.
HIV Rash Causes
Around 85% of HIV positive individuals will experience this rash. The HIV rash is mainly of three types:
Rash due to acute HIV infection
As we know, HIV affects the infection fighting ability of the immune system. Those with HIV have reduced white blood cell count and this renders them susceptible to a range of other diseases. HIV rash can be one of the symptoms that develop because of this damage to the immune system.
Here, the rash will occur along with other symptoms of HIV such as fatigue, fever, sore throat, infections, diarrhea, swollen lymph nodes and muscle cramps. The skin will take on a reddish hue due to the rash and may appear slightly elevated. However, rash due to acute HIV infection does not usually cause itching. The rash may last for about two to four weeks.
Rash due to HIV medication
Sometimes, the HIV rash can develop as a reaction to the anti retroviral medication they are on. The rash develops as a side effect of the medication used to treat HIV. This rash is itchy in nature and often disappears without treatment.
However, certain medications cause severe rashes. These medications often belong to the group of NNRTI medication, NRTI medication and PIs (protease inhibitors).
An example of a severe skin condition that is caused by the anti HIV medication is Steven Johnson Syndrome (SJS). In this condition, the skin rash is accompanied by other symptoms like blisters, fever and tongue swelling. In such cases, the HIV rash has developed as a reaction to the medication taken to treat the individual with HIV.
Symptomatic HIV rash
This rash develops due to dermatitis seen in individuals with HIV. The rash here tends to be itchy and is often seen as a pinkish red eruption on the affected parts.
Link between Herpes and HIV Rash
If a HIV positive individual has also contracted the herpes virus, they are more likely to develop rashes. This is a serious case. Both the conditions affect the immune system and the immune levels of the body will greatly be compromised. The rashes will often be filled with fluid and if they burst, the infection spreads and can form ulcers. This can even turn life threatening and cause the death of the patient.
HIV Rash Treatment
As HIV rash is a symptom of HIV and HIV is not fully treatable, there is no complete treatment for the HIV rash. Depending on its origin, whether it is due to acute HIV infection or as a side effect of medication, it resolves within a few days. Sometimes, the rash reappears.
The rashes are often treated through:
- Application of medicines – steroid creams, antihistamines, anti viral medication. This removes the rash temporarily.
- Laser treatment and Cryotherapy (using liquid nitrogen) can be used to treat the rash.
- Phototherapy may also be used to treat the rash.
- The patients are advised to use only mild soaps, shower gels, cosmetics and detergents so as to not aggravate the skin.
- Hot showers and baths are to be avoided.
- Clothing should be made of cotton fibers and should be airy.
- The patient may have to use moisturizers and emollients on the rashes to keep the skin well moisturized.
- In case of flare ups, calamine lotion can be used to soothe the skin.
HIV Rash Pictures
The HIV rash is a skin condition caused as a result of acute HIV infection or as a reaction to medication taken to treat HIV. The rash develops in the early stages usually. The symptoms vary a bit according to the origin of the rashes. The treatment aims at alleviating the discomfort caused by the rash and stopping it from spreading. Treatment combined with certain precautionary measures will be able to help control the condition.