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Does HIV itself cause depression?
Jan 11, 2006

I have been living w/HIV since 1985. I have seen many friends with depression (myself included). I believe there is some evidence that HIV itself may have an impact on depression; "organically". We know alot about the connection w/ dementia etc.. but, specifically, is there an increase in depressive disorders associated with HIV infection and not associated with the situational concerns we go though as PWHIV?

Response from Dr. Horwath

We know that HIV enters the brain and invades some of the cells in the brain, but not neurons. We know that some cells in the brain do not function properly as a result of HIV infection. In people with advanced AIDS, ie. with low CD4 count and high viral load, this can present as HIV-associated dementia. In people with less advanced AIDS, the early symptoms associated with this process are apathy, social withdrawal, fatigue, and slowed thinking. In many people with AIDS, social withdrawal and fatigue are further exacerbated by wasting syndrome and low testosterone levels. People with these symptoms appear depressed and cannot easily be distinguished from people with depression, but without HIV infection.

Also, there have been some epidemiological studies that show an increased prevalence of depression among people with AIDS when compared to those without HIV infection.



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