Monthly Archives: December 2013

Neurological Complications in Adults with HIV/AIDS

A prominent clinical neuropsychologist, Wilfred van Gorp, Ph.D., serves as the director of the Center for Cognitive Assessment, where licensed clinicians provide neuropsychological evaluation and treatment for a wide range of disabilities and psychiatric conditions. Dr. van Gorp is a licensed psychologist in the states of New York and Illinois and he is board certified by the American Board of Professional Psychology and the American Board of Clinical Neuropsychology. Since 1987, Wilfred van Gorp has served on the Scientific Advisory Committee of the American Foundation for AIDS Research, and he has co-edited a book entitled Practitioner’s Guide to the Neuropsychiatry of HIV/AIDS.

Persons with AIDS (acquired immune deficiency disorder) may experience a wide array of neurological disorders. In fact, neurological complications affect more than 50% of adults diagnosed with AIDS in the U.S. The origins of these neurological disorders vary. The HIV/AIDS virus itself may directly cause neurological disorders, as do cancers associated with AIDS. Bacteria and other opportunistic infections may also lead to neurological problems. In some cases, the toxic effects of drugs prescribed to patients with AIDS may contribute to neurological conditions. Researchers postulate that other factors of unknown origin lead to neurological problems in persons with AIDS.

One of the most common neurological conditions in persons with AIDS is AIDS dementia complex (ADC), which most often affects those in the advanced stages of the illness. However, ADC is a rare condition in those undergoing anti-retroviral therapy. Among the symptoms experienced by patients with ADC are inflammation of the brain (encephalitis) and a decline in cognitive abilities, including memory and concentration. Persons with ADC may also undergo significant behavioral changes. In addition to cognitive impairment, patients may lose motor function and dexterity, as well as motor coordination. Aside from beginning aggressive anti-retroviral therapy, clinicians may treat patients with ADC with antidementia drugs to relieve confusion and slow mental decline. Other forms of treatment will be utilized, depending upon the cause of ADC.

Many patients with AIDS have milder cognitive complaints, referred to as HIV-associated neurocognitive disorder (HAND). When symptoms are not present, neuropsychologic testing can identify more subtle problems.