for Veterans and the Public
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Can HIV cause small itchy bumps on the skin?
Yes, folliculitis is an infection of hair follicles, appearing as small, itchy bumps. HIV-infected persons often get a type of folliculitis caused by the bacteria Staphylococcus aureus. They can get it regardless of their CD4 cell count (CD4 cells are white blood cells that fight infection). Recurrent folliculitis doesn't mean that your CD4 count is dangerously low.
You can reduce your risk of developing folliculitis by keeping your skin clean. There are some other things to consider, too.
First, irritating the skin anywhere on your body with a razor, hot wax, or depilatory cream can make it easier to get folliculitis; if this applies to you, consider using an electric shaver or not trimming for a while.
Second, if you have treated your folliculitis with standard antibiotics that fight Staphylococcus (such as dicloxacillin or cephalexin) and the treatment hasn't worked, you may have a resistant type of bacteria. Your clinician can determine whether that is the case and treat you with an effective agent.
Third, there is a kind of folliculitis, called eosinophilic folliculitis, which does occur in people with lower CD4 counts. A skin biopsy (easy, quick, and done in the doctor's office) can make this diagnosis.