HIV-Associated Neurologic Disorders and Central Nervous System Opportunistic Infections in HIV

Semin Neurol. 2016 Aug;36(4):373-81. doi: 10.1055/s-0036-1585454. Epub 2016 Sep 19.


Since the advent of combination antiretroviral therapy (cART), HIV has transformed from a fatal disease to a chronic illness that often presents with milder central nervous system (CNS) symptoms laced with related confounders. The immune recovery associated with access to cART has led to a new spectrum of immune-mediated presentations of infection, phenotypically distinct from the conditions observed in advanced disease.HIV-associated neurocognitive disorder (HAND) entails a categorized continuum of disorders reflecting an array of clinical presentation, outcome, and increasing level of severity: asymptomatic neurocognitive impairment (ANI), mild neurocognitive disorder (MND), and HIV-associated dementia (HAD). HAND is defined through an assessment of neurocognitive abilities and functional performance. Progressive neurologic symptoms detected in patients on cART with detectable CSF viral load and a suppressed plasma viral load, or CSF viral load 1 log10 greater than low detectable plasma viral load, characterize a phenomenon termed symptomatic CSF "escape." CD8+ T-cell encephalitis, possibly a form of CNS immune reconstitution inflammatory syndrome, resembles CNS "escape" as it presents in patients despite viral suppression with cART. Cerebral toxoplasmosis, cryptococcal meningitis, and progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy, are AIDS defining conditions with associated high mortality risk. Cerebral toxoplasmosis and cryptococcal meningitis typically manifest in immunosuppressed patients (<200 CD4+ T-cells/μL), while PML can occur in patients with higher CD4+ T-cell counts.Neurologic conditions are increasingly interconnected with chronic diseases, and classic opportunistic infections may have altered phenotypes in the cART era. However, there exist promising diagnostic methods and therapeutic approaches, as well as associated pitfalls in diagnosis and treatment.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • AIDS-Related Opportunistic Infections / complications*
  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes
  • HIV Infections / complications*
  • Humans
  • Nervous System Diseases / diagnosis
  • Nervous System Diseases / etiology*
  • Nervous System Diseases / therapy
  • Opportunistic Infections