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HIV Related Memory Loss
Aug 20, 2010

I was diagnosed with HIV in May 1989 and started noticing that I can't remember names of friends and of common everyday items. I have to ask my partner the names of our friends and when trying to talk about something I have to tell him what the item is used for so he will know what I am talking about. At my doctor's appointment yesterday, my doctor said that there are many positive people who are complaining about this. He is doing some research but I would like to know if there is treatment for this that is effective or am I destined to be like my grandfather who has Altzheimers disease?

Response from Dr. Henry

There is concern that chronic HIV infection may cause ongoing brain damage even when doing well blood wise on treatment. The initial best advice is to make sure you have full suppression in the blood of HIV levels. Careful neuropsych evaluation and sometimes MRI scanning or CSF analysis is often necessary to detail if some level of unexpected brain damage is occurring. Background genetics (family risk) are important as you note so can be a challenge to determine if HIV is adding to the problem. There are some HIV drugs that penetrate into the brain better than others so if there is evidence for some ongoing HIV replication or neurocognitive decline then sometimes the HIV regimen is switched around to try and optimize brain penetration. There is no clearly effective therapy for brain damage from HIV outside of good HIV control and addressing other possibly risk factors for cerebrovascular disease (smoking, diabetes, hypertension for example). KH



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