The pathology associated with late-stage dementia in human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection has been studied extensively. Neuropathological examination has demonstrated abundant activation and infection of macrophages/microglia termed HIV encephalitis. For obvious reasons, less is known regarding the neuropathology of minor cognitive impairment seen in earlier stages of HIV infection. The authors examined the utility of the peripheral benzodiazepine receptor ligand PK11195 in positron emission tomography (PET) imaging to assess microglial/macrophage activation in the brains of HIV-infected subjects with minor neurocognitive impairment in a cross-sectional study of 12 HIV infected individuals and 5 age-matched noninfected controls. Subjects were given a battery of neuropsychological tests in addition to assessing CD4 T-cell count and peripheral viremia followed by contrast enhanced magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and PET with [15O]H2O followed by [11C](R)-PK11195. Two of the six neurocognitively impaired HIV-infected subjects demonstrated plasma viral breakthrough, whereas only one of six nonimpaired individuals demonstrated plasma viral load near the limits of detection. MRI demonstrated no abnormal enhancement and although atrophy was more prominent in impaired subjects, it was also present though to a lesser extent in nonimpaired subjects. None of the 12 HIV-infected subjects demonstrated increased retention of [11C](R)-PK11195 in the brain parenchyma compared to the 5 controls. These results suggest that either [11C](R)-PK11195 PET assessment is insensitive to the degree of macrophage activation in HIV-associated minor neurocognitive impairment or macrophage activation is not the pathological substrate of this neurological condition.