Understanding Your Type of Kaposi Sarcoma

These are the types of Kaposi sarcoma (KS) that are not related to HIV and AIDS:

  • Classic KS. This type usually appears in men who are of Jewish, Italian, or Mediterranean descent. It grows slowly, sometimes over 10 to 15 years. As the disease gets worse, the lower legs may swell due to poor circulation and pooling of blood and other fluids. KS can spread to other organs over time as well, but usually less frequently than in other forms of KS.

  • Endemic KS. This type occurs in men, women, and children in certain areas of Africa. Children usually have a more aggressive form of the disease.

  • Iatrogenic (transplant-associated) KS. This kind of KS may show up in people who are taking drugs to make their immune system weaker. The immune system helps the body fight off infection and foreign invaders. People who have had an organ transplant must take drugs called immunosuppressants to stop their immune system from rejecting the new organ. Sometimes, the KS goes away when you stop taking the drugs.

  • KS in HIV-negative men who have sex with other men. There have been recent reports of increased cases of KS among men who have sex with men, though they are not HIV-positive. This form of KS tends to be milder and the lesions less likely to spread than in AIDS-related KS.

On this site, the diagnostic and treatment information covered is for the type of KS related to AIDS:

  • AIDS-related KS. Some people who are infected with HIV get AIDS-related Kaposi sarcoma. Without treatment, HIV infection usually progresses to AIDS. But even if you have HIV, you may not ever develop AIDS. HIV can be in the body for a long time without causing any problems. The HIV virus kills T-helper (also called CD4) cells of the immune system. Killing these immune cells leaves the body less able to fight off infections from other viruses, bacteria, and parasites. When HIV damages the immune system enough to cause the CD4 count to drop to less than 200 per cubic millimeter of blood, the infection is said to have progressed to AIDS. When CD4 cells drop that low, a serious infection or cancers such as KS can occur. AIDS-related KS tends to be more aggressive and is harder to treat than other types of KS.

What to know about AIDS-defining disease

The CDC has labeled KS an AIDS-defining disease. This means that it is one of the diseases linked with AIDS. An HIV-infected person who is diagnosed with KS is now considered to have AIDS.