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HIV AND MENTAL ILLNESS
May 19, 1998

Hi i was wondering if hiv/aids can cause serouis mental illness. If you could give me an answer i whould have a decent answer for my best friend that is slowly going more deprested every day. thank you much.

Response from Mr. Shernoff

The unambiguous answer is "Yes." HIV can very definitely cause severe mental and emotional problems for two reasons. The first is an understandable, and very often seen, but not universal reactive depression to the diagnosis itself of having a life threatening illness. Second is that HIV does enter the central nervous system and can cause organic brain syndromes with a host of different mental and emotional symptoms, with depression being one of the most common. One of the problems is that the early generations of anti-retroviral medications do not cross the blood brain barrier. Luckily the new protease inhibitors do cross into the central nervous system and can help reduce the effects of HIV on a person's mood and thought process. Your friend needs to be evaluated by a psychiatrist who is familiar with people with HIV. There are numerous anti- depressant and anti-anxiety medications that when correctly prescribed and taken as prescribed can also fight the symptoms of HIV related mental and emotional illness.

Michael Shernoff, MSW



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