AIDS Dementia Complex

Though the majority of patients with HIV do not develop dementia (due to treatment with AZT and combination therapy), the AIDS Dementia Complex may occur when a HIV-infection affects neurons in the brain. The disease mainly occurs in later stages of the infection.

Signs & Symptoms:

  • Forgetfulness
  • Concentration problems
  • Anxiety
  • Language difficulties
  • Slowing down of thinking
  • Slow, unsteady movements
  • Difficulty keeping balance
  • Coordination problems
  • Jerky eye movements
  • Personality changes, mood-swings
  • Hallucinations
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Loss of appetite

It is difficult to be precise about the incidence of AIDS-related cognitive impairment. Estimates are from 10-25% of all AIDS patients (Woods & Moore, Cognitive Neuropsychology of HIV-Associated Neurocognitive Disorders, 2009).

Tips for First Responders:

  • Turn off lights and sirens as soon as possible
  • Speak slowly and clearly
  • Use "adult" words, but ask questions one at a time, rather than asking multiple part questions
  • Ask the individual if s/he wears a medic alert device (this may tell you where they live)
  • Maintain a calm manner; this may help the individual calm down is s/he is anxious