1 in 5 of HIV-infected develop dementia

HIV can hide in the brain, concealed from the immune system and antiviral drugs, and cause dementia in the victim.
The discovery unravels the link between HIV infection and HIV dementia. In fact, about one in five of those infected by HIV develop dementia.

Some of the symptoms of dementia include mood swings, confusion, difficulty in performing complex tasks, failing memory, loss of judgement, social withdrawal etc.

“The persistence of the virus in the brain compromises the brain’s normal function, and leads to the death of neurons and to clinical dementia,” says Lachlan Gray, who headed the team that did the study at the Monash University and the Burnet Institute, both in Australia.

“We believe our findings will aid the development of novel drugs that will prevent HIV using the brain as a sanctuary, and help to shape future eradication strategies,” said Gray, according to a Monash statement.

Gray said: “We’ve identified changes in the way the virus reproduces, which allows it to keep a low profile and persist undetected in the brain.”
Modern drugs are very good at controlling the virus, but they are unable to eradicate it from ‘sanctuary’ sites like the brain,” said Lachlan’s supervisor, associate professor Melissa Churchill.

“Unfortunately, brain infection often leads to dementia which can be very debilitating. Somewhat more concerning, HIV is now the commonest cause of dementia in people under the age of 40, and is placing an extra burden on our mental health services,” Churchill added.