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HIV-associated Neurological Disease Prevalent in Asia-Pacific Region

Science Update

A new study finds a significant rate of HIV-related neurological disease among HIV-positive populations living in the Asian-Pacific region. The study, funded by NIMH and the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, was published July 1, 2008, in the journal Neurology.

Neurological disorders like dementia and other conditions are commonly associated with HIV infection, especially if patients have not been treated with highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART). Because HAART is unavailable to the majority of the 8.3 million HIV-positive people living in the Asian-Pacific region, the researchers note the importance of estimating the existing prevalence of HIV-related neurologic disorders in the area.

Between July 2005 and March 2006, Edwina Wright of Alfred Hospital in Melbourne, Australia, and colleagues screened 658 HIV-positive patients in eight Asian-Pacific countries for HIV-associated dementia and HIV-related distal sensory peripheral neuropathy, both progressive and debilitating neurological diseases. They found that 12 percent of patients were significantly cognitively impaired—a sign of dementia—and 20 percent had sensory neuropathy with symptoms that included numbness, aching and pain in the feet and legs. In addition, 36 percent had evidence of depression, a finding consistent with other studies in both developed and developing countries among HIV-positive patients.

The researchers conclude that HIV-related neurological disease poses a significant burden on HIV-positive populations in the Asian-Pacific region and recommend more routine screening and better access to HAART.

Reference

Wright E, et al. Neurologic disorders are prevalent in HIV-positive outpatients in the Asia-Pacific region. Neurology. 2008 July 1; 71: 53-59.