Kaposi's sarcoma, or KS, is a type of cancer. It was one of the first diseases seen in people with AIDS and remains one of the most common cancers in HIV-positive people.
Most researchers now agree that a virus called Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV), also known as human herpesvirus-8 (HHV-8), causes KS. However, the virus alone is not enough to cause KS. Abnormalities of the immune system, such as in people with AIDS, may allow the virus to cause disease.
Approximately 30% of all HIV-positive gay and bisexual men are infected with KSHV, whereas only 2% to 3% of HIV-positive transfusion recipients or hemophiliacs are infected with the virus. As for HIV-positive heterosexual women, only 3% to 4% are infected with KSHV.
KS has been known to occur in some HIV-positive people with relatively high T-cell counts (around 500 cells/mm3). The risk of developing KS, especially in people infected with both HIV and KSHV, increases the more the immune system becomes damaged and suppressed. Luckily, anti-HIV therapy has permitted many HIV-positive people to keep their immune systems healthy and, in turn, prevent KS from occurring in the first place.