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Managing Side Effects of HIV TreatmentManaging Side Effects of HIV Treatment
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Memory loss - due to HIV or coma meds?
Jun 4, 2012

Hi, A friend of mine has been HIV+ for 13 years. He is 38yo. He didn't take any HIV meds until 18 months ago, when he collapsed with PCP and many other infections. He was put in a coma for a month while they treated his various illnesses. He has responded really well to the ART, and now has a CD4 count of 250 (up from 10 when he was in hospital), and an undetectable viral load. The doctors warned us that the opiates and other drugs they used to sedate him would result in memory loss for a while after the coma, and we certainly observed that. However, it is now 18 months since he was brought out of the coma, and I feel his memory is still poor. He tells me the same story multiple times and forgets things I say to him. If I tell him something important, he asks me to put it in an email so he won't forget it, so I think he has some awareness of what's happening. I think it may be one of the factors in his reluctance to seek work. I'm wondering whether I should say anything to him - is there any point? Might there be treatments that could improve his memory? If so, is it important that he start on them ASAP? Thanks. This site is a godsend.

Response from Dr. Henry

AIDS related brain problems can be seen in patients with low CD4 counts/advanced disease so that is a possibility (such as AIDS dementia or encephalopathy)-recovery is variable in severe cases. Anoxic brain damage from his collapse and other conditions could be contributing-it may be worthwhile to have his partner or legal guardian go with the patient for one of his clinic visits to raise those concerns and to discuss what is going on and the prognosis. KH

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