Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

HIV & AIDS Health Center

Select An Article

HIV and Dementia

Font Size

HIV is often linked with mental decline and worsening motor skills. When the virus attacks someone's nervous system, it can damage their brain and cause HIV-associated neurocognitive disorders (HAND).

Symptoms of HAND include at least two of the following:

Recommended Related to HIV/AIDS

AIDS Wasting Syndrome

AIDS wasting syndrome occurs when you have AIDS and lose at least 10% of your body weight -- especially muscle. You may also have at least 30 days of diarrhea or extreme weakness and fever that's not related to an infection. Not a specific disease, AIDS wasting syndrome is a poorly understood condition of AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome). It is less frequent than in the past, thanks to HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) medications, called HAART. But it is still a significant threat. It...

Read the AIDS Wasting Syndrome article > >

Three Classes of HAND

Asymptomatic neurocognitive impairment. Tests show a decline in mental abilities, but the person's everyday life isn't affected.

Mild neurocognitive disorder. There’s a noticeable change in the person's ability to do everyday tasks.

HIV-associated dementia. This form really limits someone's ability to lead a normal life. People in the later stages can have seizures, psychosis, and loss of bladder or bowel control.

The first two classes have mild to moderate symptoms, and they affect nearly half of people who have HIV. The third, severe form is relatively rare these days. That’s due to the introduction of a drug cocktail called highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) in 1996.


The symptoms of HAND are similar to a number of disorders, so diagnosis can be tricky. Plus, symptoms can vary from one person to the next.

The doctor may do a mental evaluation, brain scan, and spinal tap (a test sample of the fluid surrounding the spinal cord).


While there's no cure, the most effective treatment for HIV-associated dementia is HAART, which is known to reduce the amount of HIV in the blood.

Particularly helpful drugs are ones that can cross the blood-brain barrier, like zidovudine (Retrovir). A doctor may also prescribe an antidepressant, an antipsychotic drug, or a psychostimulant (a drug for alertness).

A person with this condition may need help remembering to take their medication.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Joseph Goldberg, MD on November 18, 2014
Next Article:

Today on WebMD

How much do you know?
contemplative man
What to do now.
Should you be tested?
HIV under microscope
What does it mean?
HIV AIDS Screening
man opening condom wrapper
HIV AIDS Treatment
Discrimination Stigma
Treatment Side Effects
grilled chicken and vegetables
obese man standing on scale
cold sore