What happens to the tongue when you have HIV?

What happens to the tongue when you have HIV?

Infection of HIV is caused by a virus that targets the immune system, resulting in a wide range of symptoms. The virus has the potential to infect and damage every organ in the body, including the skin, as well as the neurological, respiratory, and digestive systems. It can also raise the likelihood of acquiring oral health problems in a person’s lifetime.

According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, those living with HIV are “at increased risk for oral health problems.” This is especially true for children. According to available evidence, around 30–80 percent of HIV-positive individuals develop oral problems as a result of their infection.

The signs and symptoms of HIV differ depending on where the disease is in its progression. HIV progresses in three stages:

  • Stage 1: Acute HIV infection
  • Stage 2: Chronic HIV infection
  • Stage 3: AIDS

During the acute stage, oral symptoms such as mouth ulcers are frequently experienced. As a result, they can serve as an early warning indication of HIV infection. When it comes to tracking the progression of HIV to AIDS, oral symptoms can be quite useful.

The oral symptoms of HIV can manifest themselves in a variety of ways on the tongue, each of which may necessitate a different treatment.

In this post, we will discuss the most common HIV symptoms that can manifest themselves on the tongue, as well as the many treatment choices available. We will also address methods to limit the risk of oral issues and explain why the virus cannot be communicated through kissing or other forms of physical contact.

The effects of HIV on the tongue

Because HIV affects a variety of oral health concerns, it might have an indirect effect on the tongue. These are some examples:

  • candidiasis
  • hairy leukoplakia
  • herpes
  • hyperpigmentation
  • warts


Oral candidiasis, often known as thrush, is a fungal infection that can affect any part of the mouth, including the mouth. It manifests itself as rough patches that might be yellow, white, or red in colour and may induce a burning feeling in the affected area. People who have oral thrush may notice changes in their taste, as well as an increase in their sensitivity to spicy foods.

Depending on how severe the infection is, a doctor may give antifungal lozenges or mouthwash to treat it. If the infection is serious, they may recommend that you take antifungal medication.

Hairy leukoplakia

Hairy leukoplakia is characterised by the development of a thick, white, hair-like area on the tongue. Despite the fact that it is not usually painful, the growth might be uncomfortable. Hairy leukoplakia patches can appear to be similar in appearance to oral thrush. However, it is not possible to shift hairy leukoplakia patches, but patches that develop as a result of oral thrush can be removed with a damp cloth.

If the symptoms of hairy leukoplakia are minimal, treatment may not be essential. If the symptoms are severe, a doctor may prescribe a prescription to help alleviate them temporarily.

Oral herpes

Because HIV affects the immune system, those who have the virus are more prone than other people to develop oral herpes than others. Oral herpes infections are characterised by the development of red sores and blisters in and around the mouth. The sensation of tingling or burning is common with them, although they are not necessarily painful.

Oral herpes, in contrast to thrush and hairy leukoplakia, is contagious and can be spread from person to person by mouth-to-mouth contact — for example, kissing.

Although there is no cure for herpes at this time, a doctor can prescribe antiviral medicine to help lessen the frequency and severity of the disease’s oral symptoms.

Oral hyperpigmentation

Changes in hormone levels induce more pigmentation to accumulate in the tissues, resulting in the development of dark lesions in the mouth, which are known as oral hyperpigmentation. These lesions can be any colour, including blue, purple, brown, grey, and black.

The symptoms of oral hyperpigmentation are purely cosmetic, and there is little hope of a cure.

Oral warts

Oral warts develop as small bumps in the mouth. They can be pink, white, or grey in colour, and they can spread by kissing in some cases.

The treatment will be determined by the location where they grow. Warts on the lips can be treated with a cream, but warts on the inside of the mouth require surgery or cryosurgery, which is a freezing therapy, to be removed completely.

Preventive method

There are various methods that people can take to reduce their chances of developing HIV. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), these are some examples:

  • abstaining from sex
  • using a barrier method, such as a condom, during all sexual activity
  • avoiding sharing needles
  • using HIV prevention medication, such as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), for those at increased risk

An HIV positive person can help prevent dental issues by following the recommendations of the American Dental Association. These recommendations include:

  • attending regular dental appointments
  • brushing the teeth twice a day for at least 2 minutes each time
  • flossing between the teeth
  • taking HIV medication regularly

In addition to the oral issues listed above, a person living with HIV may suffer from chronic dry mouth as well. This can result in a variety of complications, including infection and tooth decay. A person can minimise the dryness of their mouth by doing the following:

  • drinking water regularly
  • avoiding salt
  • avoiding alcohol
  • refraining from smoking
  • chewing or sucking on sugarless gum or sugarless hard candy
  • using artificial saliva

Is it possible for HIV to spread through kissing?

Because HIV is not transmissible through saliva, it is exceedingly improbable that the infection will be transmitted by kissing. The possibility of transmission exists in the event that both partners have open sores in their mouths, as this may allow the blood of a person who has the infection to enter the bloodstream of the other partner.

Is it possible for HIV to be transmitted through oral sex?

Transmission of HIV through oral intercourse poses a low risk of transmission.

If the bodily fluids of a person with HIV were to reach the bloodstream of another person through an open wound in their mouth, it is possible that the other person might contract HIV. Transmission might also occur if a person with a detectable viral load ejaculated into the mouth of a sexual partner while infected with the virus.

For this reason, barrier protection such as condoms and dental dams should be used during sexual activity whenever possible.

Other issues involving the mouth

People living with HIV may develop a variety of additional illnesses that can cause mouth issues, such as:

  • human papillomavirus
  • canker sores
  • gum disease
  • Kaposi’s sarcoma

The reason for this is that HIV weakens the immune system, making it more difficult for the body to fight off infection when it is present.


HIV can induce a wide range of symptoms that might manifest themselves in any part of the body. The tongue might be affected by oral symptoms, which are common during the first stage of the virus’s life cycle. A person infected with HIV has a weakened immune response, making him or her particularly prone to new infections. Consequently, those living with HIV are more likely to develop other difficulties, such as illnesses such as oral herpes.

Through kissing, there is a very little chance that HIV will spread. Illness occurs when the virus is passed from one person to another by the bloodstream, breast milk, vaginal fluid, or sperm of a person who has the infection. The virus would therefore have to be present in the mouths of both partners in order for it to spread through kissing.