Advanced HIV & dementia
Aug 31, 2007
My aunt was recently admitted to hospital after several months of hallucination and depression. We recently discovered she has had HIV for the last 7 years. Doctors told us her brain is shrinking and this reduces her chances of survival. She is not talking anymore, doesn't recognise anyone. Its hard as she has 4 small children. The signs of AIDS are there. She started ARVs two months back. What can the doctors do for her, is there any treatment or anything good to give?
Response from Dr. Conway
HIV infection often affects the brain, either directly, or through other infections or cancers. The first thing to do is to make sure she does not have an infection, cancer or other condition that can be treated successfully on its own. Testing would involve blood tests, a spinal tap and a CT scan (or other imaging test, such as an MRI) of the head. If nothing is found, it may be that HIV itself is responsible for her symptoms. One way or another, going on ARVs is essential for her. It will help address the symptoms of HIV dementia (if this is the diagnosis). It will also help rebuild her immune system and help combat the infection or cancer that may be present if this is a consideration. In some cases, people make a dramatic recovery once they start ARVs, so I would keep an open mind about her untimate prognosis at this point.
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