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HIV dementia

for Veterans and the Public

HIV dementia

Sometimes called "HIV encephalopathy" or "AIDS dementia," this disease is caused by HIV invading the brain. It is most common when the CD4 cell count has gotten very low.

Symptoms can include:

  • memory loss
  • depressed mood
  • unsteadiness when walking
  • irritability
  • apathy
  • clumsiness
  • shaky hands (poor handwriting)
  • personality changes

This condition is less common now that there are drugs available to treat HIV. It may even be prevented by using HIV drugs that cross into the brain.

People who are affected need to have a strong support system. Friends, roommates, or family members can help make sure that HIV medications are taken on time, in the right combination, and at the right dose. If memory is poor, a person can use notes, calendars, and alarms to remember medicines, appointments, and other important events.