AIDS Dementia Complex
(ADC; AIDS Encephalopathy; AIDS-related Dementia; ARD; HIV-associated Dementia Complex; HIV Encephalopathy; HIV Associated Encephalopathy (HAE), HIV associated Cognitive/Motor Complex)
Sarah J. Kerr, BA
AIDS dementia complex (ADC) can occur in people with
AIDS. ADC results in changes in multiple neurologic areas:
Cognition—the ability to understand, process, and remember information
Behavior—difficulty performing daily tasks
Emotions—may have personality changes and
depression Motor coordination—the ability to coordinate muscles and movement
ADC is a common nervous system complication of late-stage HIV infection.
HIV destroys white blood cells vital to the immune system.
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.
It is not clearly understood how HIV infection causes ADC.
Factors that may increase your chance of having ADC include:
Symptoms usually develop slowly and worsen over time. They can be grouped into stages:
Stage 1 (Mild)
Difficulty remembering details, such as phone numbers, appointments, or tracking daily activities
Longer time needed to complete complicated tasks
Unsteady walking, tremor, or difficulty keeping balance
Poor hand function
Change in handwriting
Stage 2 (Moderate)
More focus and attention needed
Frequently dropping objects
Feelings of indifference or apathy
Slowness or difficulty with normal activities, such as eating or writing
Walking, balance, and coordination require a great deal of effort at this stage.
Stages 3 and 4 (Severe and End Stage)
Loss of bladder or bowel control
Abnormal gait, making walking more difficult
Withdrawing from life
Severe mental disorders, such as psychosis or mania
Unable to leave bed
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
Tests may include:
Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment options include:
Anti-HIV drugs are often used to treat ADC. Your doctor will create a medication plan that is right for you. These drugs are often given in combination.
Other medications may be used along with antiretroviral therapy to treat symptoms of ADC. These may include:
Medications to prevent seizures
ADC occurs in people with HIV. Ways to help reduce your chance of getting HIV include:
When you have sex, use a male latex
Limit your number of sexual partners.
Avoid sexual partners who are HIV-infected.
Do not share needles for drug injection.
Avoid having transfusions of blood products that have not been screened.
If you are a healthcare worker:
Wear appropriate gloves and facial masks during all procedures. Carefully handle and properly dispose of needles. Carefully follow universal precautions.
If you live in a household with someone who has HIV:
Wear appropriate gloves if handling HIV-infected bodily fluids. Cover your cuts and sores with bandages. Also cover cuts and sores on the person with HIV. Do not share any personal hygiene items, such as razors or toothbrushes. Carefully handle and properly dispose of needles used for medication. RESOURCES:
American Foundation for AIDS Research
AIDS.gov - U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
http://www.aids.gov CANADIAN RESOURCES:
AIDS Committee of Toronto
Canadian AIDS Society
AIDS dementia complex. University of California at San Francisco website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL) Accessed September 4 ,2013.
HIV-associated dementia. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL) Updated March 7, 2013. Accessed September 4, 2013.
Luo X, Carlson KA, et al. Macrophage proteomic fingerprinting predicts HIV-1-associated cognitive impairment.
Meehan RA, Brush JA. An overview of AIDS dementia complex.
Am J Alzheimers Dis Other Demen.
Nicholas MK, Lukas R, et al.
Textbook of Neurological Surgery.
6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott, Williams, and Wilkins; 2011: chap 46.
Last reviewed September 2013 by
Rimas Lukas, MD Last Updated: 9/30/2013