Genital ulcers can be a symptom of HIV. In the United States, most young, sexually active patients with genital ulcers have genital herpes, syphilis, or chancroid. However, for women with HIV, genital ulcers could be a symptom of other things, like cancer or CMV. If you have ulcers, see you doctor to find out what's causing them. Below you'll find information about chancroid, herpes, and syphilis.
Chancroid begins with open sores on the genitals. These sores occur within a week after you get it. Symptoms in women are often less noticeable and may be limited to painful urination or bowel movements (BM), painful sex, rectal bleeding, or vaginal discharge. Chancroid lesions may be difficult to distinguish from ulcers caused by genital herpes or syphilis. See your doctor to figure out what the ulcers are. There are many types of antibiotics to treat chancroid. If you're HIV positive the ulcers may heal more slowly, and the drugs are less likely to work. So, you may need to take the drugs longer than someone without HIV.
Herpes is caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV). The main symptoms of herpes are painful blisters or open sores in the genital area. Before you get these sores, you may feel tingling or burning sensation in your legs, buttocks, or genital region. The herpes sores usually disappear within two to three weeks, but the virus never goes away. So, you can get herpes sores again. Herpes sores are more common for people with HIV and may be severe and painful, especially when CD4 cell counts are low. There are different treatments, depending on what they're used for — keeping the sores away or treating an infection.
Syphilis usually starts with a painless open sore that usually appears on the penis or in or around the vagina. You can also get them near the mouth, anus, or on your hands. You may not notice the first symptoms because they are very mild and go away suddenly. If you don't get treatment, syphilis gets more serious. You can get a rash and, in time, have problems with your heart and central nervous system. Syphilis is treated with penicillin. To make sure the treatment is working, you should see your doctor at 3, 6, 9, 12, and 24 months after you start penicillin.Back to HIV/AIDS page