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What exactly is Molluscum: am I at risk?

Dec 13, 1996

My HIV+ partner has been recently diagnosed with Molluscum. What exactly is this condition and how is it transmitted? I am also HIV+ and have a CD4 count of about 300. I am currently on AZT and +/- ddc +/- Saquinavir (definitely not monotherapy ). My partner has a very low CD4 count (negligible) but is otherwise an extremely healthy man. We have been sexually intimate since he has had the Molluscum. Is this a virus like Herpes which lies dormant in ones system and that most of us have come in contact with? Am I at risk for contracting it given my current CD4 count? What precautions can I take? Thank you in advance for your response.

Response from Dr. Cohen

Molluscum contagiosum is caused by a poxvirus. In HIV-negative people, it is usually a fairly benign problem, characterized by small flesh-colored mumps on the skin that usually go away by themselves.

In HIV-infected people, molluscum can sometimes be more severe, with widespread lesions that can spread or grow quite large. It tends to be more severe with lower CD4 counts. Molluscum affects only the skin; it does not involve other organs or cause fever or other symptoms.

There is no medical treatment for molluscum, but the lesions can sometimes be removed with laser, liquid nitrogen, surgery, or electrodessication.

Molluscum is spread by close contact, including sexual contact, and it is highly contagious. Since most HIV-infected people who have molluscum don't just have it on the genitals, wearing condoms isn't going to help much. Unfortunately, there's just not much you can do to prevent exposure short of limiting all intimate contact. That's not usually a very good option, so the next best thing you can do is to keep your CD4 count up with good antiretroviral therapy so that if you do get molluscum, it will be mild and easy to control.

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