• Vol. 42 No. 10, 527–534
  • 15 October 2013

HIV-Associated Neurocognitive Disorders—An issue of Growing Importance



Introduction: HIV-associated neurocognitive disorders (HAND) comprise a wide spectrum of cognitive, motor, and mood abnormalities prevalent in people living with HIV and AIDS (PLWHAs). This field of HIV medicine has gained renewed prominence in recent years with evidence contending that anti-retroviral agents with increased central nervous system (CNS) penetration may improve neurocognitive outcomes in those affected. This review aims at evaluating the available evidence and postulating further study direction in Singapore.

Materials and Methods: A PubMed search was carried out for original articles and systematic reviews on the subject of HIV-associated neurocognitive disorders, and the results reviewed by the authors.

Results: There is a growing body of evidence that HAND is not uncommon, and the advent of highly active anti-retroviral therapy has increased its prevalence by improving the prognosis of HIV infection, and hence increasing the likelihood of diagnosing of this neurocognitive condition. Screening and diagnosing HAND is important, and requires clinical suspicion as well as validated test batteries for optimal accuracy. The authors recommend strategies for detection in the local context involving stepwise targeted screening. Anti-retroviral agents with good CNS penetration and activity, as well as adjunctive neuro-rehabilitative interventions, may improve the impairments experienced by affected individuals.

Conclusion: Increased awareness of HAND, with earlier diagnosis and targeted, multi-disciplinary management of this challenging condition, may lead to better all-round outcomes for people living with HIV and AIDS in Singapore.

The spectrum of neurologic and psychiatric pathology in HIV-infected individuals is wide. AIDS-defining central nervous system (CNS) conditions are perhaps more readily recognised, and include opportunistic infections such as toxoplasma encephalitis, cytomegalovirus (CMV) encephalitis and progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML), as well as malignancies like primary CNS lymphoma.

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