Dementia and Cognitive Problems
HIV can cross the blood brain barrier and infect cells in the brain. This usually happens shortly after infection. As a result long term HIV infection may cause cognitive changes and HIV- associated dementia (HAD).
Prior to the advent of effective treatments for HIV, HAD was very common, but in countries like Australia where people have easy access to treatment it is now extremely rare unless HIV is diagnosed very late.
Dementia and cognitive issues are associated with ageing independently of HIV.
If you are on treatment you are less likely to get dementia and cognitive problems - the risk of HAD is another argument for starting treatment as early as possible.
If you are concerned about dementia you can ask your doctor about getting a baseline neurological test and discuss monitoring for early signs of dementia such as decreases in attention or concentration, reduced speed of information processing, or slowing of psychomotor responses.
Some HIV drugs are more effective at crossing the blood brain barrier than others so you may also wish to discuss treatment options with your doctor.
This page was published on 19 September, 2011
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