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Dermatitis possible early symptom The Body: Rick Sowadsky M.S.P.H., C.D.S, Answers to Safe Sex Questions

Jan 9, 1997

Hello Rick. Was wondering if you have heard of an initial symptom of HIV infection (within first couple months) of dermatitis on the skin-- small patch on neck and arm--instead of the viral syndrome that some people experience. I may of course just be worrying since I had safe sex with an escort about a month ago by using a condom, but I have heard that some people with HIV experience problems with their skin. I thought however that dermatitis usually only occurred later in infection when a person's immune system was much weaker and approaching AIDS possibly. Any thouhts on this? Thanks much!

Response from Mr. Sowadsky

Hi. Thank you for your question. Dermatitis is not associated with recent HIV infection. The only skin condition seen with recent HIV infection is a rash that sometimes occurs during Acute Viral Syndrome. More information about this rash is discussed in the Question, Acute Retroviral Syndrome, dated January 3, 1997. Persons with full-blown AIDS can have dermatitis, but remember, symptoms of full-blown AIDS do not begin until an average of 10 years after infection. Also remember that most people with dermatitis DO NOT have HIV infection. Dermatitis has numerous causes that are most often totally unrelated to HIV. So having dermatitis is NOT an indication of HIV infection. Because symptoms related to recent HIV infection look exactly like the symptoms of many other illnesses, NOBODY can tell you whether your symptoms are due to HIV or not. Only HIV testing can determine if a person has HIV.

In your case, since your risk was low (since you were practicing safer sex), it's unlikely that your dermatitis is anything HIV/AIDS related.

If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact the Centers for Disease Control at 1.800.232.4636 (Nationwide).

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