Oral lesions are common in human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-infected patients, which may indicate impairment of the patient’s general health status, and, in many cases, the oral lesions are the first sign of an HIV infection. Oral hairy leukoplakia (OHL) is a benign lesion of the oral mucosa related to Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) observed in HIV-positive individuals. The aim of this study was to report the contribution of oral cytopathology in the investigation of the HIV/AIDS status of patients as well as in the clinical and subclinical identification of OHL. Three patients were referred to the Oral Medicine Clinic in 2010. The patients were submitted to oral examination, and scrapes of the tongue were obtained. The Papanicolaou staining technique was used, and cytopathological analysis showed nuclear changes corresponding to cytopathic effects of EBV epithelial infection and candidiasis. The final diagnosis was OHL and candidiasis. Based on cytopathological diagnosis, an HIV serologic test was requested which revealed positive HIV serology. None of the patients was aware of their HIV serological status, and thus the cytopathology, by identifying OHL, contributed to the early diagnosis of HIV/AIDS. Cytopathology should be used as a routine procedure and it may be the method of choice for clinical and subclinical OHL diagnosis.

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