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HIV dementia

for Veterans and the Public

HIV-associated neurocognitive disorders

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 with effective treatment of HIV, but less severe forms of cognitive disease are increasingly recognized.

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.