Jul 11, 2003
I've heard that HIV directly affects the brain. Is this a fatal condition?
Response from Dr. Horwath
No, HIV's effects on the brain do not directly lead to fatality, but may have important consequences on a person's ability to function. People who develop serious cognitive impairment (slowed down thinking, memory problems, problems in calculating, etc.)due to HIV certainly do need evaluation and treatment, but fatality due to AIDS almost always occurs due to a failure of the immune system, not due to the effects on the brain.
The single most important factor in increasing survival in HIV infection has been the development of the HAART cocktails. These medications, when taken reliably, have dramatically reduced mortality due to AIDS. They have also reduced the likelihood of serious central nervous system complications due to AIDS, including severe cognitive impairment.
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