Kaposi's sarcoma is a form of skin cancer that we mainly see in people with a weakened immune system. This cancer is caused by the human herpes virus 8 (HHV8). Every year 50 people in the Netherlands are diagnosed with a Kaposi's sarcoma. This is the first manifestation of AIDS in more than 30% of patients with Kaposi's sarcoma.
Symptoms that occur with Kaposi's sarcoma are mainly skin abnormalities. People get flat brown/purple spots or thickenings on the skin or mucous membranes. These abnormalities are most common on the feet and hands, but they can also appear on the nose or in the mouth. Kaposi's sarcoma does not hurt and it does not itch.
Kaposi's sarcoma is caused by HHV8, a virus. This virus can be transmitted through sex, blood-to-blood contact or during pregnancy. Healthy people can almost always clear this virus themselves. People with a reduced immune system due to, for example, an HIV infection or an organ transplant cannot clear this virus well. They can eventually get Kaposi's sarcoma.
HIV and Kaposi's Sarcoma
People with an HIV infection have a reduced immune system, so that HHV8 is not properly cleared by the body. If HHV8 can persist in the body for a longer period of time, a Kaposi's sarcoma can develop. Kaposi's sarcoma is an HIV indicator disease.
HIV indicator conditions are conditions or symptoms that occur more often in people with an underlying HIV infection than in people without an HIV infection. Kaposi's sarcoma is one of the HIV indicator conditions. If you have or have had kaposi's sarcoma and have not been tested for HIV, it is advisable to ask your doctor or general practitioner for an HIV test. Find it difficult to ask for an HIV test? You may download a call card that will help you formulate your question.