Background  Papular and follicular eruptions, such as papulopruritic eruption, eosinophilic folliculitis, and infective folliculitis, are relatively common disorders in patients infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). These conditions may show considerable clinical overlap.

Objective  To assess the relative proportion of pruritic papular cutaneous eruptions in South Africans with HIV-associated dermatoses, and to correlate the clinical and histologic features of these lesions.

Methods  The clinical and histologic features of papular follicular eruptions were correlated in 40 consecutive black HIV-positive patients who underwent skin biopsy.

Results  The clinical features were similar in all patients and consisted of widespread papules and pustules involving the face, limbs, and trunk. The most common histologic finding was acute suppurative folliculitis, seen in 27 patients (67.5%). In most cases, no cause was found for the suppuration. Papulopruritic eruption of HIV was diagnosed in six patients (15%), HIV-associated eosinophilic folliculitis in four (10%), Pityrosporum folliculitis in two (5%), and acne in one (2.5%). Concordance between the initial clinical diagnosis and the final histopathologic diagnosis was achieved in only 27.5% of cases.

Conclusion  Skin biopsy remains an important adjunct to the correct diagnosis and classification of papular and follicular eruptions in HIV-positive patients.