Mouth ulcers

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Ulcers in the mouth are a common problem and may interfere with eating and swallowing.


They are usually simple aphthous ulcers. A typical aphthous ulcer has a red rim with a greyish centre. Less frequently, they can be caused by Candida, herpes simplex, Kaposi's sarcoma, lymphoma or a low white cell count (neutropenia) and they may develop into bacterial infections. Treatment with ddC has been associated with the development of mouth ulcers in 15 to 30% of people who take the drug. These can occur at any time during treatment with ddC.

What to do

For aphthous ulcers which tend to be small and recurrent, simple measures such as mouth washes, local anaesthetic, steroid gels or pastes may be all that is needed. If, however, the ulcers are very painful, persistent or large then consult a doctor or specialist HIV dental services. Thalidomide has been used successfully to treat severe aphthous ulcers in people with HIV. See Ulcers in A to Z of illnesses for further information on the treatment of serious ulcers.

Although not a proven treatment, honey may sometimes be recommended to soothe mouth ulcers. If untreated, mouth ulcers can interfere with eating and appetite and affect nutrition and weight.

Community Consensus Statement on Access to HIV Treatment and its Use for Prevention

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We can end HIV soon if people have equal access to HIV drugs as treatment and as PrEP, and have free choice over whether to take them.

Launched today, the Community Consensus Statement is a basic set of principles aimed at making sure that happens.

The Community Consensus Statement is a joint initiative of AVAC, EATG, MSMGF, GNP+, HIV i-Base, the International HIV/AIDS Alliance, ITPC and NAM/aidsmap

This content was checked for accuracy at the time it was written. It may have been superseded by more recent developments. NAM recommends checking whether this is the most current information when making decisions that may affect your health.

NAM’s information is intended to support, rather than replace, consultation with a healthcare professional. Talk to your doctor or another member of your healthcare team for advice tailored to your situation.