HIV infection and the central nervous system: a primer

Neuropsychol Rev. 2009 Jun;19(2):144-51. doi: 10.1007/s11065-009-9094-1. Epub 2009 May 5.


The purpose of this brief review is to prepare readers who may be unfamiliar with Human Immunodeficiency Virus/Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (HIV/AIDS) and the rapidly accumulating changes in the epidemic by providing an introduction to HIV disease and its treatment. The general concepts presented here will facilitate understanding of the papers in this issue on HIV-associated neurocognitive disorders (HAND). Toward that end, we briefly review the biology of HIV and how it causes disease in its human host, its epidemiology, and how antiretroviral treatments are targeted to interfere with the molecular biology that allows the virus to reproduce. Finally, we describe what is known about how HIV injures the nervous system, leading to HAND, and discuss potential strategies for preventing or treating the effects of HIV on the nervous system.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome / complications*
  • Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome / therapy
  • Anti-Retroviral Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Antiretroviral Therapy, Highly Active / methods
  • Central Nervous System / virology
  • Central Nervous System Diseases / etiology
  • Central Nervous System Diseases / virology*
  • Cognition Disorders / etiology
  • Cognition Disorders / virology*
  • HIV / classification
  • HIV Infections / classification
  • HIV Infections / complications*
  • HIV Infections / drug therapy
  • Humans


  • Anti-Retroviral Agents