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Skin Problems & Treatments Health Center

Skin Conditions Related to HIV/AIDS

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Oral Hairy Leukoplakia As a Sign of HIV/AIDS

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

Oral hairy leukoplakia lesions may be flat and smooth or raised and furry (hairy). The lesions do not cause pain or discomfort, so they are usually not treated. The condition resolves on its own, but can recur often. If necessary, oral hairy leukoplakia can be treated with acyclovir, a medication that treats herpes (see below).

HIV/AIDS and Molluscum Contagiosum

Molluscum contagiosum is an infection that is marked by smooth white or flesh-colored bumps on the skin. It is caused by a virus and is contagious.

This condition is not serious, and the bumps often resolve on their own without treatment. However, in people with HIV infection whose immune systems are functioning poorly, the infection can become very chronic and progressive.  If necessary, the bumps can be removed by a doctor by scraping or freezing. Drug treatments may include retinoic acid or imiquimod cream. Again, the best treatment is to treat the HIV itself, and as the immune system improves, the molluscum will resolve.

HIV/AIDS and Herpes

There are two types of herpes: Herpes simplex type 1 (or HSV-1), which occurs most often on or near the mouth and appears as a cold sore, and herpes simplex type 2 (or HSV-2), which occurs most often on or near the sex organs and is sometimes called "genital herpes." The herpes virus is spread by close personal contact, such as kissing or sexual intercourse. Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted disease, or STD.

There is no cure for herpes. Once a person has the virus, it remains in the body. The virus lies latent in the nerve cells until something triggers it to become active again. These herpes "outbreaks," which can include the painful herpes sores, can be controlled with antiviral medication.

Learn more about herpes.

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