Neuroinflammation in HIV-associated depression: evidence and future perspectives

Mol Psychiatry. 2022 Sep;27(9):3619-3632. doi: 10.1038/s41380-022-01619-2. Epub 2022 May 26.


People living with HIV face a high risk of mental illness, especially depression. We do not yet know the precise neurobiological mechanisms underlying HIV-associated depression. Depression severity in the general population has been linked to acute and chronic markers of systemic inflammation. Given the associations between depression and peripheral inflammation, and since HIV infection in the brain elicits a neuroinflammatory response, it is possible that neuroinflammation contributes to the high prevalence of depression amongst people living with HIV. The purpose of this review was to synthesise existing evidence for associations between inflammation, depression, and HIV. While there is strong evidence for independent associations between these three conditions, few preclinical or clinical studies have attempted to characterise their interrelationship, representing a major gap in the literature. This review identifies key areas of debate in the field and offers perspectives for future investigations of the pathophysiology of HIV-associated depression. Reproducing findings across diverse populations will be crucial in obtaining robust and generalisable results to elucidate the precise role of neuroinflammation in this pathophysiology.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Depression / etiology
  • HIV Infections* / complications
  • Humans
  • Inflammation
  • Mental Disorders*
  • Neuroinflammatory Diseases