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 Table of Contents  
Year : 2017  |  Volume : 29  |  Issue : 4  |  Page : 288-291

Prevalence of Oral Manifestations Among HIV-Positive Patients Undergoing Antiretroviral Treatment Visiting Chamarajanagar District Hospital: A Cross-Sectional Study

Department of Dentistry, Chamarajanagar Institute of Medical Sciences, Yadapura, Karnataka, India

Date of Submission03-Nov-2017
Date of Acceptance15-Oct-2017
Date of Web Publication15-Feb-2018

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Sathyaprakash Dongade
Department of Dentistry, Chamarajanagar Institute of Medical Sciences, Chamarajanagar, Yadapura, Karnataka
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/jiaomr.jiaomr_111_17

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Introduction: The introduction of antiretroviral therapy (ART) among the HIV/AIDS patients has reduced the frequency of the oral lesions, especially oral candidiasis, necrotizing periodontal conditions, Kaposi's sarcoma, hairy leukoplakia, and recurrent oral ulcers due to reconstitution of the immune system. Aim: This study is to determine the effect of ART on the oral mucosa of HIV/AIDS patients clinically. Materials and Methods: Three hundred and seventy-three patients who are on ART were examined for oral manifestations. Results: Oral candidiasis was manifested in 64% of patients, oral pigmentation in 44.5% patients, 43% with gingival or periodontal infection, 33% with reduced salivary secretion, and 35% with dental caries. Conclusion: It was concluded that high incidence of candidiasis may be due to the habits or history of tuberculosis, pigmentation, and xerostomia due to the medication.

Keywords: Antiretroviral therapy, candidiasis, CD4 cells, oral manifestation in HIV, pigmentation, xerostomia

How to cite this article:
Dongade S, Wajid Sermadi ZM, Manjunath R, Priyadarshini C, Jayapala MS. Prevalence of Oral Manifestations Among HIV-Positive Patients Undergoing Antiretroviral Treatment Visiting Chamarajanagar District Hospital: A Cross-Sectional Study. J Indian Acad Oral Med Radiol 2017;29:288-91

How to cite this URL:
Dongade S, Wajid Sermadi ZM, Manjunath R, Priyadarshini C, Jayapala MS. Prevalence of Oral Manifestations Among HIV-Positive Patients Undergoing Antiretroviral Treatment Visiting Chamarajanagar District Hospital: A Cross-Sectional Study. J Indian Acad Oral Med Radiol [serial online] 2017 [cited 2022 Jun 29];29:288-91. Available from: https://www.jiaomr.in/text.asp?2017/29/4/288/225464

   Introduction Top

Acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) was first described as a not needed clinical entity in 1981. Though at first lifestyle and behavioral factors were hypothesized to be causally related, finally in 1983 the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) was identified as the true cause of AIDS.[1] AIDS is a complex of symptoms and infections caused by the HIV virus as it affects the immune system. It is an acquired infection, not hereditary. Since its appearance in 1981, it has spread to become a major cause of premature death and so far, cure has not yet been found. AIDS is a global pandemic, 33.4 million people are currently living with the disease worldwide, and it has killed an estimated 2.4 million people, including 330,000 children (UNAIDS, 2010). Over three-quarters of these deaths occurred in sub-Saharan Africa, retarding economic growth and destroying human capital.[2]

AIDS is an infectious disease caused by HIV, and is characterized by prolong immune suppression that leads to opportunistic infections, secondary neoplasms, and neurological manifestations. HIV is a retrovirus, which has a specific affinity for cluster of differentiation 4 (CD4) T helper cells.[3] The CD4 T-lymphocyte count and viral load are the most important laboratory parameters to evaluate the diseases. The laboratory test is generally accepted as the best indicator of the immediate state of immunological competence of the patients with HIV infection and is an important determinate of the disease's stage and prognosis in seropositive individuals.[4]

HIV-related oral lesions are frequent and often an early finding in patients with HIV infection. They affect the quality of life of the patients and are useful markers of disease progression. The oral lesions found in patients with HIV infection can be of fungal, viral, and bacterial origin.[4] Mouth is a mirror of systemic problems. The occurrence of oral manifestations is favored by immune deterioration. Oral manifestations are present in 30–80% of HIV patients. HIV infection presents as oral problems, for example, oral candidiasis, hairy leukoplakia, ulcers, pigmentations, etc., Hence, early identification of oral findings is helpful in early diagnosis and monitoring of patients with HIV infection.[5] Oral manifestations suggest a decrease in cluster differentiated (CD) count with increased viral load. According to the new classification given by Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), clinical AIDS is defined by a CD4 count of <200 and/or a CD4 <14%.[5]

Oral lesions and relationship with CD4 count and viral load

The hallmark of HIV disease is the progressive loss of CD4+ lymphocytes. Without intervention, an average of 60–80 cells/mm 3 is lost every year; this loss is highly variable and occurs in periods of stability and rapid decline. High viral load is also considered one of the main indicators of the progression of HIV-induced immune suppression. Several studies have shown that the higher the viral load, the quicker the progression to AIDS.[2] The CD4 count and viral load measure the progression of the HIV disease. Several studies have shown high prevalence of oral lesions in patients with low CD4 count, <200 cells/mm 3 and high viral load: >55,000 copies/ml.[2]

The introduction of highly active antiretroviral therapy (ART) in HIV patients has brought a dramatic reduction in morbidity and mortality rates, and patients are living longer with a better quality of life.[6] It can only control the progress rate of the disease. Present therapeutical resources are not able to cure HIV, however, antiretroviral medication is effective enough to suppress viral replication with consequent immune recovery, and in turn HIV fatal infection into a long life chronic disease.[7]

Oral lesions and their response to highly active antiviral treatment (HAART)

The goals of HAART should be maximal and durable viral suppression. The aim is preservation and restoration of the immune system at minimal cost to the patient. This should improve the quality of life through easy use of their regimen with minimal side effects to enhance optimum adherence. This should translate into a reduction of HIV-related morbidity including oral manifestations. Reduction of viral burden will prevent progressive immunodeficiency, decrease the risk of the emergence of resistant viruses, and possibly decrease the risk of viral transmission. It has been shown in various studies that the prevalence of HIV-related oral lesions reduces significantly with HAART. Studies examining the effect of HAART on the prevalence of individual oral manifestations mainly reported on oral candidiasis, oral hairy leukoplakia, HIV-related periodontal diseases, Kaposi's sarcoma (KS), oral papilloma, and HIV-related salivary gland disease showed reduction in the prevalence.[2]

Aims and objectives

The aims and objective of this study are:

  1. To diagnose and record the oral changes in patients who are on ART
  2. To determine CD4 count of all the above patients; and To correlate between presence/absence and severity of oral changes and individual CD4 count.

   Materials and Methods Top

A cross-sectional study of seropositive patients who are undergoing ART visiting the ART Center, District Hospital, Chamarajanagar were included in the study. In 373 patients oral manifestations were examined. The examiner received training on diagnostic criteria prior to conducting patient examinations. Permission was taken from the institutional ethical committee. With prior written consent from each patient, with natural light using disposable wooden spatula, disposable mouth mirror, gloves, masks, bright illuminated torch, and sterile pieces of cotton and gauze, oral examination was performed.

   Results Top

Of the 373 patients studied for the oral manifestation, 206 were female patients and 167 males. CD4 ranged from 34 cells to 2462 cells, with mean of 538 cells. Age of the patients ranged from 3 to 74 years with mean age of 39 years. Eighty-five patients had history of tobacco habit and tuberculosis. Two hundred thirty-eight (64%) patients presented with candidiasis, pigmentation was seen in 166 (44.5%) patients, 160 (43%) with gingival or periodontal infection, 125 (33%) with reduced salivary secretion, and 130 (35%) dental caries. Other manifestations present were geographic tongue among 9 patients, herpes zoster in 4 patients, aphthous ulcer in 6 patients, 4 patients with lichen planus, and oral hairy leukoplakia was present in 4 patients.

   Discussion Top

HIV was first reported in USA between June and July 1981. The CDC published two reports on clusters of young homosexual men who developed opportunistic infections that were chiefly detected in several immune-deficient individuals.[2] The HIV attacks and disturbs the delicate balance of host's immune response, thereby rendering the host susceptible to a lot of life-threatening opportunistic infections, neurological disorders, unusual malignancies and oral lesions, and in HIV-associated opportunistic infections.[8] Skin and the mucous membranes are “independent organs” of the immune system. An immunodeficiency allows even harmless saprophytes on the body surface and follicle openings to penetrate into deeper tissue layers, and thus develop life-threatening infections.[9] Oral lesions have been reported to be early clinical features of HIV infection. These lesions are often indicators of immune suppression and can be used for early testing, diagnosis, and management of patients with HIV/AIDS. Oral lesions contribute to patients' morbidity, affecting the psychological and economic functioning of the individual and community.[2]

ART provides effective treatment options for the patients affected with HIV/AIDS. The initial goal of ART is to improve survival without progressing to AIDS and try to alleviate the adverse effects of treatment. Immune reconstitutions via the recovery of CD4+ count serve as marker for monitoring the response to therapy because of its predictive ability for AIDS-related events and death.[10] The overall prevalence of oral manifestations of HIV infection has changed since the advent of HAART. Several studies have shown reduction in prevalence of herpes labialis and periodontal diseases along with other lesions to more than 30% after the institution of HAART and in HIV-associated opportunistic infections.[2]


This is the most common intraoral lesion seen among HIV-infected individuals, however, its frequency varies among studies. The most common organism involved with the presentation of candidiasis is Candida albicans.[11] In the present study out of 373 patients, 238 patients have candidiasis accounting to 64%, and angular cheilitis in 44 patients. This is high compared to all the studies in literature, and in patients with CD4 count <200 almost all patients had candidiasis. Nayak et al.[12] reported 39.5% candidiasis and Ravi and Rao [13] reported 36.11% candidiasis. These are the only two studies that were above 35% candidiasis, who are on ART. Rest of the studies showed reduced oral candidiasis.[14],[15],[16] The high incidence of candidiasis in the present study may be due to the habits or history of tuberculosis.


Brown or brownish black macular oral hyperpigmentation, typically associated with intraleukocytic melanin or pigment in the basal cell layer or lamina propria with premature melanosomes, has been described in HIV-infected patients. Often the cause is unknown, but the identified causes include zidovudine (AZT), clofazimine, ketoconazole, and hypoadrenocorticism. As a result of adrenal Mycobacterium avium, intracellular infection usually does not respond to HAART. This is the second common finding in the present study, which is about 44%. Qadir et al.[10] reported 63% pigmentation, Sontakke [16] reported 30.6% oral pigmentation, and Satyakiran [14] also showed similar cases of pigmentation (42.3%), which is close to our study.


This may be associated with the salivary gland enlargement but is also a common consequence of medications used by this population. Several medications used in the treatment of HIV-related disease may cause xerostomia. It has been found that specific salivary gland diseases, such as Sjogren's-like syndrome, diffuse CD8 lymphocytic infiltration, and lymphoepithelial cyst, occur during the course of HIV disease progression.[17] In the present study, xerostomia was found in 125 (33%) patients. Satyakiran [14] reported 26.3% patients with xerostomia. Studies need to be conducted measuring the stimulated and unstimulated salivary flow in a longitudinal cohort of HIV positive patients initially before HAART and later at 6 months interval to accurately measure the impact of HAART on xerostomia.

Other manifestations present were geographic tongue in 9 patients, herpes zoster in 4 patients, aphthous ulcer in 6 patients, 4 patients with lichen planus, and oral hairy leukoplakia was present in 4 patients. Even though the incidence of dental caries and periodontal disease was more in the study, it was not taken into consideration because general population in the study area had similar dental caries and periodontal condition. Oladokun et al.[18] reported that they did not find a statistically significant difference in the prevalence of oral lesions in the ART naïve population compared with those on ART. This is surprising because the goal of ART is to reduce viral load with a resultant restoration of immune function and reduced incidence of opportunistic infections. The disparity in various findings may have some racial and geographical implications. Moreover, the clinical and immunological status of the subjects at the point of evaluation may offer additional explanation for the disparity.

   Conclusion Top

Increased incidence of oral candidiasis in patients with ART may be due to the oral hygiene, history of tuberculosis, and use of alcohol or tobacco. Increased incidence of pigmentation may be due to the medication, which requires a control study with the medications. Studies are required with more sample size with systemic diseases, oral hygiene, and habits. Further exploration of interaction between the host and ART in the HIV positive patients must be explored.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

   References Top

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Jindwani K, Singh K, Dadlani H. A study of oral lesions among HIV positives in a tertiary care hospital. Biomed Res 2013;24:40-2.  Back to cited text no. 3
Shetty S, Kattappagari KK, Hallikeri K, Krishnapilli R. Evaluation of oral lesions in HIV seropositive individuals and its correlation with CD4+T-lymphocytic count. J NTR Univ Health Sci 2016;5:123-9.  Back to cited text no. 4
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