HIV-Related Skin and Complexion Conditions

Approximately 90 percent of people living with HIV develop skin changes and symptoms at some stage during the course of their disease.

The good news is that with good viral control and preservation of the immune system, skin problems have become far less common. They're also less severe and easier to treat.


HIV rash is the most common skin-related HIV symptom. Often, the skin is just extra sensitive to chemicals and sunlight. Sometimes the rash is caused by HIV. The typical HIV rash is often a flat red area on the skin that is covered with small bumps. Most allergies can be seen within one to two weeks of a new medication getting started. Rash also has other causes, including Molluscum contagiosum, herpes simplex and herpes zoster infections, drug eruptions, and Kaposi sarcoma lesions. Also, an HIV skin rash can be the result of a medication used to treat HIV.


Shingles are caused by the herpes zoster virus. It is a painful, blistering skin rash that looks like water blisters in a stripe on one side of the body. The skin changes are due to the reactivation of the chickenpox virus, which stays dormant in your body since childhood. Shingles usually only involve one side of the body, often the trunk or less commonly an arm, leg or region of the face. The development of shingles may be the first clue that someone is infected with HIV and has a weakened immune system. This painful condition can last for several weeks and occasionally spreads to other parts of the body. Several oral anti-viral medications are helpful. Early treatment can reduce the severity and duration of pain associated with shingles. Any involvement of the face or eye is a medical emergency.


Lesions in your skin can be caused by viral infections. Herpes simplex I and II infections are the main causes of lesions on the skin. Lesions can happen anywhere on the skin. They can one to two weeks to heal. 

Photos of Skin Conditions Related to HIV and AIDS

San Diego's Premier HIV Care Clinic The Owen Clinic

The Owen Clinic, established in 1982, is the largest, most comprehensive primary care center in San Diego for individuals living with HIV. Each year our physicians, nurses, social workers and pharmacists care for, counsel, educate and support more than 3,000 people. The Owen Clinic also trains medical students on how to deliver exceptional care to those living with HIV/AIDS.