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What Do AIDS Lesions Look Like?

AIDS or acquired immunodeficiency syndrome is a serious medical condition caused by a virus called as human immunodeficiency virus or HIV. This condition weakens the immune system of the affected individual, making the person prone to infections and other diseases. As the condition advances, it starts affecting all organs of the body one by one.

Human skin, which is considered as one of the largest organ of the body, is also affected by AIDS. The skin is controlled by the immune system of the body, and responds to immune function deficiency secondary to HIV infection. The skin lesions associated with AIDS appear different in terms of characteristics and symptoms. Based on the severity of the condition, different skin lesions associated with HIV infection are discussed below.

What Do AIDS Lesions Look Like?

What Do AIDS Lesions Look Like?

The lesions that an AIDS patient has might be due to various conditions. The lesions look different based on the condition and they are as follows:

Kaposi’s Sarcoma:

Kaposi’s sarcoma is a type of skin cancer which is often associated with HIV. This condition is commonly seen during the later stages of AIDS, when the immune system is very weak with low T4 cell count. The symptoms include dark coloured skin lesions predominantly along the lymph nodes and blood vessels. Colour ranges from brown, red or purple.

Hairy Leukoplakia:

Oral hairy leukoplakia is a viral infection seen in the oral cavity. Its characteristic feature includes appearance of white lesions across the tongue with spots which give it a peculiar hairy appearance. It is caused by weakened immune system caused by HIV infection. These lesions do not have any specific treatment and depends on overall treatment plan of the condition.

Psoriasis Lesions in AIDS Patients:

Psoriasis is a common skin condition where the skin cells develop at a faster rate than normal. This results in excessive build-up of dead skin over the skin which turns silver in colour after a while. This gives a scaly appearance to the skin. This lesion can affect any portion of the skin and worsens if it does not receive treatment on time. Treatment modality includes application of topical steroid ointments. However, in AIDS patients, these treatments may not work, and may require treatment with phototherapy and retinoid creams.

Thrush in Patients with AIDS:

Oral thrush is another condition that affects the oral cavity including the tongue. They appear similar to oral hairy leukoplakia, but with a thicker layer. These lesions can also be caused by fungus unlike most of the other lesions which are caused by viruses. Treatment includes oral medications and anti-fungal mouth washes. In AIDS patients, this condition often reoccurs and needs repeated treatment.

Herpes Lesions in AIDS Patients:

Herpes lesion is characterised by red blisters around the mouth or genitals. These are highly infection blisters and are often related to chicken pox and shingles. Prescription medicines often clear up the lesions and arrest their spread. In severe cases, these blisters are seen around the eyes. These lesions are very common in AIDS patients.


Scabies are a problematic condition that affects AIDS patients. This is because these lesions multiply very quickly and spread to neighbouring areas. They are extremely contagious and difficult to control. They are caused by Sarcoptes scabiei mites and noted for their itchy red papules.

Molluscum Contagiosum in AIDS Patients:

Molluscum contagiosum is a skin lesion seen is association with AIDS. The symptom includes raised bumps over skin, which appears flesh to dark pink in colour. It has been noted that in HIV patients, the break outs include over 100 bumps at a time. These lesions are painless but contagious in nature. It is treated repeatedly with liquid nitrogen.

Seborrheic Dermatitis:

This skin lesion is characterised by presence of yellow, scaly and oil plaques over the skin, which tend to bleed upon scratching or irritation. Treatment involves local application of hydrocortisone. In severe cases with open wounds, antibiotics may be necessary.

Warts Associated with AIDS

Skin warts associated with HIV infections are caused by HPV or human papillomavirus. The lesions appear flesh coloured small specks with cauliflower like appearance. The lesions tend to bleed when exposed to irritation especially if they are located in skin folds or mouth. These warts are prone to infection, if they are irritated or if they become open wounds. These lesions are recurrent in AIDS patients and are treated by surgical excision.


  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – HIV/AIDS: https://www.cdc.gov/hiv/default.html
  2. The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology – Cutaneous Manifestations of HIV: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3890499/
  3. HIV Medicine – Cutaneous manifestations of human immunodeficiency virus infection: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28722136/

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Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:July 28, 2023

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