A rash is one of the earliest symptoms of HIV and can look different on different people. Changes in the immune system can trigger various types of skin reactions and other symptoms. The most common type of rash shows up on large areas of the body — such as the back or chest — with flat, red spots that are typically not itchy. The skin may also look dry and flaky.
Rashes associated with HIV can also change over time. For example, if you’re susceptible to rashes due to other conditions, including psoriasis, herpes, or allergic reactions, you may experience more of these rashes because your immune system is already compromised. The severity of your rash depends on how healthy your immune system is.
Since an HIV rash signals a problem with the body’s immune system, many people will experience other symptoms along with the skin rash. These symptoms include swollen lymph nodes, exhaustion, fevers, and flu-like symptoms, such as the chills, achy muscles, and a general feeling of illness. Some people might also experience issues with mobility or getting around.
With the proper treatment, an HIV rash will go away. However, since this virus weakens the immune system, infectious rashes may be more likely to reappear. If you experience an unexplained rash and you have potentially been exposed to HIV, we recommend getting an HIV test.