A significant proportion of people with HIV/ AIDS develop neurological symptoms, such as impaired co-ordination, personality changes, deficits in learning and memory, and mania and depression.
HIV-associated dementia is difficult to treat; although highly active anti-retroviral therapy (HAART) has led to improved prognoses for patients, these drugs do not effectively penetrate the blood brain barrier. So, the brain can act as a “silent reservoir” for HIV, which can therefore cause lasting and irreparable damage.
Exactly how HIV causes dementia was unknown. But a new study by researchers from the University of California, San Diego at La Jolla, now shows that, as well as causing the death of neurons, the virus also inhibits formation of new cells of new brain cells involved in learning and memory. So, as well as damaging the brain, the AIDS virus prevents the organ from repairing itself.