Memory problems usually affect older people, but sometimes HIV can cause them. HIV-associated dementia (or HIV encephalopathy) affects people of all ages.
Usually HIV-related memory problems are at the milder end of the spectrum and many people living with HIV experience them. These tend to include symptoms such as:
More severe memory problems - such as dementia - are relatively uncommon, but may be marked out by:
This list was compiled according to this article from NAM.
In the past it was more common for people with HIV to develop HIV-related dementia but sophisticated antiretrovirals mean this is now rare. People who are living with HIV are more likely to develop a milder type of memory problem called ‘neurocognitive impairment’.
There are also more subtle forms of impairment which do not cause noticeable problems but can be picked up by tests.
The risk of developing brain impairment is higher if you have a late HIV diagnosis. It also depends upon your lowest ever (nadir) CD4 count.
Antiretroviral treatments can sometimes reverse the problem.
You can reduce your likelihood of developing brain impairment by reducing your alcohol intake and not taking recreational drugs.
Similarly, managing stress and depression is also important.
Eating a healthy diet, exercising, stopping smoking and losing weight if you are overweight are also advised by the NHS as ways the general population can avoid dementia. This is because high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels can also increase your risks of developing some types of dementia.
If you have any concerns about your memory or think you may be experiencing some brain impairment, talk to your doctor. There are tests which can determine whether you have a problem and if necessary your healthcare team will be able to recommend treatment to help.
Next: Menopause and HIV ››
‹‹ Back to: Kidney problems and HIV
(No votes cast)
Please log in
or register to vote.
to add this article to My favourites.
Adding an article to My favourites will allow you to easily come back to it later or print it.
You will need to be logged in before you can leave a comment.
Please log in using the form on the top right of the page or register.
This article was last reviewed on
by Anna Peters
Date due for the next review: 20/2/2018
Content Author: Kerri Virani
Current Owner: Kerri Virani
Brain impairment in people with HIV may not be as common as we thought, NAM aidsmap (2011)
Scattered pictures – brain impairment and HIV, NAM aidsmap (2009)
HIV in the brain, NAM aidsmap (2011)
Dementia, Michael Carter, May 2012, NAM aidsmap
Neurocognitive impairment, NAM aidsmap (2011)
Cognitive impairment common in people with HIV despite antiretroviral therapy, Michael Carter, September 2007, NAM aidsmap
Dementia and ART, NAM aidsmap (2011)
HIV and the brain, Liz Highleyman, The Body (2009)
What is HIV-related cognitive impairment?, Alzheimer’s Society (November 2010)
Memory problems, NAM aidsmap, March 2011
Rarer causes of dementia, Alzheimer's Society, January 2014
HIV and lymphoma, Matt Sharp, April 2011, NAM, Aidsmap
Neurological complications of HIV, John Hopkins Medicine
Can dementia be prevented?, NHS Choices, October 2010
Various people talk about their experiences of living with HIV.
CAB - Citizens Advice Bureau
HIV Drug Interactions
George House Trust
Equality and Human Rights Commission
Copyright 2017 © Terrence Higgins Trust is a registered charity in England and Wales (reg. no. 288527)
Company reg. no. 1778149 and a registered charity in Scotland (reg. no. SC039986). Registered office: 314-320 Gray's Inn Road, London, WC1X 8DP.