Characteristics of HIV Rash

characteristics of hiv rash


What is HIV Rash?

HIV rash refers to a change in the appearance, color and texture of the human skin as a result of exposure to the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). This change usually happens after a period of 2-3 weeks after exposure to the virus. Because the rash lacks a specific appearance and is usually preceded by flu-like symptoms, mistaking the rash as a symptom of another viral infection is very common. Patients who notice a massive rash on their hands, upper body, chest, face and shoulders are advised to consult a physician to rule out allergic reactions and other skin conditions. It is however estimated that in 80 – 85% of cases the rash in the aforementioned parts is an indicator of an early HIV infection in the body.

read more: Acute HIV rash: Early & Common Symptoms & Advance Treatments


Characteristics of HIV Rash

The HIV rash does not have a definite appearance. In some instances the rash manifests as red blotches and spots on the skin. The color of the rash is greatly dependent on the color of the skin. Fair skinned individuals will notice red or brown blotches and spots while individuals with darker skin will realize dark-purplish bumps. In many cases the blotches appear in clusters on the face, hands, chest, shoulders and upper body. In other cases they present as little dots on the skin. HIV rash can also be pruritic i.e. appear individually separate on the body in distinct patients.

HIV bears an uncanny resemblance to eczema. An examination with a physician is required to rule eczema out. Oral thrush, fever, fatigue, loose bowel movement, loss of appetite and loss of weight are symptoms that tend to occur, although not as frequent, within the same period that the rash appears. Some patients have also reported a loss of their epidermis (upper layer of the skin). Loss of memory and vision problems may also occur but these are rare.

read more: Difference Between HIV Rash and Chickenpox


What To Do If You Notice A HIV Rash

If your skin develops this type of rash it is advisable to get tested for HIV immediately.

Do-It-Yourself (DIY) HIV test kits will eliminate any doubts in a matter of minutes.

Depending on the severity of the rash, Over The Counter (OTC) medications such as hydrocortisone creams and Benadrul can be used to greatly reduce the rash size as well as any possible itching that may be present. If the rash is causing serious damage to the skin you may be required to obtain a prescription from your doctor.

Exposure to direct sunlight, hot showers and baths may increased skin sensitivity and further deterioration and hence should be avoided.

read more: Difference Between HIV Rash and Herpes


Does HIV rash itch?

No it doesn’t.

The rash on its own causes no such discomfort. It may appear pre-dominantly on the upper trunk and limbs but it does not itch. It usually resolves itself in 2 weeks.

However, the use of improper medication may cause the docile rash to start itching. It is therefore best to consult with a physician in order to treat the rash with the right medication. Also, pre-existing conditions in the body plus exposure to certain environmental conditions may trigger the HIV rash and cause some reaction.

In the later stages of HIV, opportunistic infections and drugs have also been known to cause rashes associated with itching.

read more: Difference between HIV rash and Hives


Does HIV Rash Itch and Burn?

Generally, a HIV rash does not itch or burn. As mentioned above, itching and/or burning sensations will only arise if the patient uses medication that reacts unfavorably with the skin. Itching and/or burning sensations on the skin might also occur as a result of taking a cocktail of drugs whose combination causes a negative reaction on the skin. For this reason patients who suspect they might have a HIV rash should consult with a physician before taking any prescription medication.

read more: Difference between Acne (pimples) and HIV rash


Does HIV Rash Itch and Burn?

HIV rash can last anywhere between 2-3 weeks. In most patients the rash lasts for a maximum of 2 weeks. The rash is caused as a result of seroconversion i.e. when HIV antibodies start forming in large numbers in the blood. It should be noted however that 15-20% of patients with HIV do not experience any rash symptoms at all.

The process of seroconversion lasts anywhere between 2 weeks to 6 months meaning that some patients may still experience mild rash symptoms up to 6 months depending on their biology.


How Does HIV Rash Feel Like?

There is nothing unique about the HIV rash. The rash shares similar traits to that of eczema but without the itching and irritation. Rubbing ointment and creams will help accelerate the rate at which the rash will disappear from the skin.


HIV Rash Treatment

HIV rashes dissipate on their own within 2-3 weeks. They remain gone through the dormant stage of the infection and have been known to re-occur in the later phase of the disease as a result of opportunistic infections.

Since HIV infection has no cure, there is also no cure for the HIV rash. Over The Counter (OTC) drugs, ointments and creams can provide temporary relief against itchiness and irritation. Patients with HIV rash are advised to limit exposure to extreme temperatures i.e. either cold or heat and to avoid direct sunlight as this may exacerbate the rash leading to discomfort.


Symptoms Of HIV In Men

No two men can share the exact same symptoms of HIV. However, the progression of HIV follows a similar pattern in all men. Body rash, severe headaches and sore throats are the most common symptoms during the first weeks after infection. In the next phase (asymptomatic stage) men might not experience any symptoms for years. If no testing was done in the first stage it’s easy to dismiss the earlier symptoms to be that of flu or some random infection. In the final stage, as a result of a highly weakened immune system, both sexes can experience persistent diarrhea, genital sores, fatigue, nausea, coughing, memory loss, prolonged swelling of the lymph nodes and rapid weight loss.


Symptoms Of HIV In Women

The most common HIV symptoms apart from the common skin rashes that women may experience include swollen glands, night sweats and fever, yeast infections, menstrual changes and pelvic inflammatory infections. Yeast infections, pelvic inflammatory infections and other diseases generally come about as a result of a suppressed immune system. Menstruation tends to change drastically especially in the first six months as the body goes through seroconversion. It may become lighter or heavier depending on the woman’s biology and how her body handles the spread of the virus. In some women menstruation may stop suddenly. This should not be a cause of alarm as it is the body’s way of trying to readjust to the infection and will soon readjust itself.

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