AIDS & Neurological Complications

The most current statistics produced by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS in 2009 reported that an estimated 35 million individuals currently live with HIV globally. Of the 35 million, 1.4 million live in the North America. This epidemic carries numerous complications, yet addressing the neurological complications related to AIDS progression can lead to a good prognosis as well as quality of life.

AIDS Dementia

AIDS dementia is reported by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke as one of the most common neurological disorders experienced with AIDS. This degenerative disorder can cause encephalitis, psychological problems related to severely depressed moods, headaches, weakness, loss of sensation in the limbs, stroke, cognitive motor (thought-processing) impairments and peripheral nerve damage.

Central Nervous System Tumors

According the AIDS.Gov, the disease AIDS becomes full-blown when the body no longer has an immune system to defend it from intruding bacteria and virus. The presence of foreign bacterium and virus often originate from a multitude of environmental sources. From food handling to drinking water to exposure to those with contagious disease, all environmental factors can contribute to cancer in other organs and the brain.

Cryptococcal Meningitis

Avert posits that the presence of crytococcol meningitis adds to AIDS progression. Crytococcol meningitis is a fungal infection that not only compromises the condition of the individual, but also can create neurological dysfunction on its own. This condition results in additional symptoms of headache, fever, paralysis to one side of the body, confusion and tremors that could lead to falls and injuries not related to AIDS directly.

Cytomegalovirus/Herpes Virus Infection

Avert states that the presence of cytomegalovirus and herpes virus infection (infectious oral and genital ulcers) with AIDS can further influence neurological processes by negatively affecting an existing immune deficiency. Cytomegalovirus and herpes virus infection result in open sores (ulcers) located in or around the mouth and genitals, which serve as a source of pain from swollen tissues and bleeding. This condition can worsen with stress, menses, stomach upset, extreme cold temperatures and in the presence of other conflicting infections.


The Neuropathy Association defines peripheral neuropathy as a result of autoimmune disorders. The presence and problematic nature of inflammation can result in unexplained pain, weakness, numbness, tingling and burning sensations throughout the extremities which often become debilitating.


National Association of People Living with HIV/AIDS defines neurosyphilis as a serious medical condition, an infection that can damage multiple body systems. For example, neurosyphilis damages all major and minor organ systems. It further impairs muscle coordination, often causes dementia, contributes to balance and the ability to walk (which can result in falls), and eventually leads to neuropathy.

Progressive Multifocal Leukoencephalopathy

Progressive Multifocal Leukoencephalopathy (PML) is a condition noted from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke as one that is subacute or progressive in the manner in which the onset occurs. It is defined as the accompanying paralysis, loss of vision and psychological problems associated with the AIDS virus and occurs in the occipital lobe area of the brain.

Psychological Disorder: Depression

While a combination of emotional issues can be construed as psychological problems associated with AIDS diagnosis, there is one particular disorder considered neurologically organic to autoimmune disorders: depression. According to AIDS.Gov, depression is not only the result of fears related to diagnosis, death and dying. Depression is the result of chemical, metabolic and nutritional imbalances caused by the virus attacking the immune system and depleting stores needed to maintain them. Depression is characterized by sadness, poor mood and concentration, suicidal thoughts, alcohol and drug abuse, sleep disturbances, excess guilt or worry, and the inability to cope healthfully or find hope.

About this Author

Robin Wood-Moen holds an M.Sc. in psychology and is currently working on a Ph.D. in health psychology from Walden University. She is an academic researcher and professional writer in health psychology, psychoneuroimmunology, religion/spirituality, bereavement, death/dying, meaning-making processes, and CAM therapies.