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Hypersensitivity dermatoses are common in human immunodeficiency virus-positive (HIV+) patients, particularly as the disease progresses. Studies have shown that a switch to T-helper 2 (Th2) might represent a turning point in HIV. This study investigated whether increases in the number of skin mast cells, immunoglobulin E (IgE) serum levels, and eosinophilia, involved in the Th2 response in allergic disease, might also be present in HIV+ patients. If so, these alterations might explain one of the mechanisms of skin hypersensitivity in these patients.Forty-five skin biopsies from the normal skin of the upper arm of HIV+ patients and 15 controls were included in the study. HIV+ individuals were classified into three equal categories according to their immunologic status: Category I (< 200/μL), Category II (200-499/μL), and Category III (> 500/μL). Anti-tryptase antibody was employed in tissue sections to show mast cells; IgE serum levels and eosinophils in peripheral blood count were investigated; delayed-type hypersensitivity (DTH) skin tests (candidin, trichophytin, and PPD 2U) were evaluated.Normal cutaneous mast cell and eosinophil counts were the same in all categories and in the control group, but increased IgE levels (P < 0.01) and DTH skin test anergy (P < 0.006) were observed among acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) patients.The density of skin mast cells in HIV infection was not modified in the course of the disease. Mast cells do not seem to be primarily responsible for triggering hypersensitivity dermatoses among AIDS patients, although data in support of the Th2 response, as seen in increased IgE serum levels and DTH anergy, are present.