HIV infection and psychiatric illness

  • MB Owe-Larsson
  • L Säll
  • E Salamon
  • C Allgulander
Keywords: HIV-associated neurocognitive disorders, HIV-associated dementia, AIDS, Psychosis, Secondary mania, HAART


Objective: To review the clinical features and current knowledge on the treatment of psychiatric symptoms and disorders in patients with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection. Method: We searched the PubMed database combining HIV/AIDS with different keywords for psychiatric diagnoses and symptoms (e.g. depression, mania, anxiety, psychosis, dementia, substance abuse) and for psychopharmacological treatment. The years covered by these searches included 1980 to 2008. Results: Patients with HIV infection are at an increased risk of psychiatric illness. Major depressive disorder and subsyndromal depressive symptoms, as well as anxiety disorder and substance abuse are more prevalent among HIV infected individuals than among the general population. HIV-associated neurocognitive disorders (HAND) are common among HIV patients, and HIV-associated dementia (HAD) is a serious condition during the acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) stage of HIV disease. Secondary
mania and psychosis might be the first clinical symptom of HIV dementia. The introduction of highly active anti-retroviral therapy (HAART) has resulted in significant decreases in morbidity and mortality for HIV infected patients. HAART has also decreased the incidence of HAD, but does not give complete protection from this condition. The utility of psychotropic medications in HIV patients has not been studied sufficiently as a basis for guidelines, and more controlled trials are needed. Conclusion: Psychiatric illness is common in HIV infected individuals, and underlines the importance for screening not only for cognitive impairment but also for
co morbid mental disease in HIV-positive patients. Further studies of the neuropsychiatric complications during HIV disease and the use of psychotropics under these circumstances are clearly needed. A better understanding of the pathogenesis of HAD is essential to identify additional therapeutic strategies for prevention and treatment of this neurodegenerative disease. Studies are also needed for optimizing effective utilization of antiretrovirals into the CNS. Mania and psychosis secondary to HAD may be used as an indicator to initiate HAART, irrespective of CD4 count. Further research on the utility of HAART in the treatment of such acute neuropsychiatric symptoms associated with HIV infection should be initiated.

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 1994-8220