What to Expect When Receiving Cancer Treatment as an HIV-positive Patient

Cancer treatment for HIV-positive patients is highly individualized and disease specific, depending on the type of cancer you have, how advanced it is, and your own personal medical condition and response to therapy. Most often you will receive a combination of treatment modalities, under close supervision from your team of doctors. Some representative treatment scenarios follow.

Kaposi's Sarcoma

Treatment for Kaposi's sarcoma (KS) that develops in the presence of anti-retroviral therapy can include topical gel, radiotherapy and intralesional therapy (chemotherapy injected directly into the lesion) for localized disease. Surgical removal may also be an option for some lesions.

If you have advanced KS, you may benefit from standard chemotherapy or from new drugs and therapies in a clinical trial.


AIDS-related lymphoma includes a diverse group of malignancies, although non-Hodgkin's lymphoma is the most common in the HIV setting. Today's improved anti-retroviral therapy allows for safer and more effective standard-dose chemotherapy. Depending upon the extent of your disease, high-dose chemotherapy with stem cell transplant may be the best treatment option, along with clinical trial protocols.

BIDMC is a leader in stem cell and bone marrow transplants, and in treatments for lymphoma and other blood cancers.

HPV-Related Cancers

Treatment for human papillomavirus-related cancers — such as anal, cervical and oral cancers — could include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and/or clinical trials. BIDMC is a leader in the treatment of these cancers.

Non-AIDS Defining Cancers

As anti-retroviral therapy has improved, and people are living longer with immunodeficiencies, other cancers common in the general population — but not associated with HIV infection — are occurring with greater frequency than HIV-associated cancers. Non-AIDS defining cancers include liver, lung, head and neck cancer. Treatments vary and may include clinical trial protocols.

BIDMC is renowned for our expertise in treating liver cancer, including liver transplantation, and for minimally invasive surgery and interventional procedures related to lung cancer. Experts here also offer comprehensive, multidisciplinary care for head and neck cancers.