Skip to main content

Treating Immune Deficiency and Related Infections in People With Kaposi Sarcoma

On this page

For epidemic (AIDS-associated) and iatrogenic (transplant related) Kaposi sarcoma (KS), it is most important to treat any immune deficiency that exists, as well as any related infections.

For people with HIV or AIDS, this means using combinations of anti-HIV drugs. This is known as highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART). For many AIDS patients, HAART may be the only treatment needed to shrink the KS lesions and to keep them under control.

In organ-transplant patients whose immune systems are suppressed by drugs, stopping, lowering or changing the drugs may be helpful. Sirolimus and everolimus are new drugs that may control the KS lesions as well as prevent organ rejection.

New KS lesions are more likely to develop when a patient’s blood test results for Kaposi sarcoma herpesvirus (KSHV) are positive. The risk of developing new lesions is lower when antiviral medicines such as ganciclovir or foscarnet are used. These medicines may help prevent new lesions but they do not help existing lesions get better. They can also cause serious side effects.

KS lesions tend to get worse if you develop bacterial or other active infections. Therefore, it is very important to do what you can to lower your risk of bacterial infections and to treat active infections promptly if they do occur.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team

Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as editors and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

Bhutani M et al. Kaposi sarcoma-associated herpesvirus-associated malignancies: epidemiology, pathogenesis, and advances in treatment. Semin Oncol. 2015; 42(2):223-246. 

Curtiss P, Strazzulla LC, Friedman-Kien AE. An Update on Kaposi’s Sarcoma: Epidemiology, Pathogenesis and Treatment. Dermatology and Therapy. 2016;6(4):465-470. 

Guidelines on the Treatment of Skin and Oral HIV-Associated Conditions in Children and Adults. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2014. Available from:

National Cancer Institute Physician Data Query (PDQ): Kaposi sarcoma treatment - Health Professional Version. 01/30/2018. Accessed at accessed on March 12, 2018.

Tian R, Liao Q, and Chen X. Prevention and Treatment of KSHV-associated Diseases with Antiviral Drugs. Virologica Sinica. 2008; 23 (6):486-495. 

Last Revised: April 19, 2018

American Cancer Society Emails

Sign up to stay up-to-date with news, valuable information, and ways to get involved with the American Cancer Society.