Patients with HIV can experience various skin problems. Many are the result of the effects of HIV on the skin and immune system, while some are related to the medications used to treat HIV. Skin problems caused by bacteria, viruses and fungi can all affect people with HIV whether they are on treatment or not. People with HIV are also at higher risk of certain skin cancers, most importantly squamous cell carcinoma (SCC). SCC can appear anywhere on the body, but most often appears on sun exposed areas, and on the genitals (penis, vagina or perianal area). Tumors in people with HIV can be more aggressive, but most skin cancers are easily treatable if recognised early. Sun protection, regular self-skin examinations, and prompt assessment of any suspicious lesions can help reduce the effects of skin cancer in patients with HIV.
Dermatologists have an opportunity to contribute to the earlier diagnosis of HIV thereby attenuating the morbidity and mortality of infection and reducing onward transmission. As well as the classical indicator conditions such as seborrhoeic dermatitis and psoriasis, anyone presenting with itching, ichythosis (dry skin), urticaria, vasculitis, drug hypersensitivity or a photodermatosis, should be offered an HIV test.
To learn more about how to recognise the signs of skin cancers, please go to the “Recognising Skin Cancer” section of the website. Further information can also be found in the patient information leaflet section or by clicking on the link below.