Main Article Content

What’s in a Name? AIDS Dementia Complex, HIV-associated Dementia, HIV-associated neurocognitive disorder or HIV Encephalopathy

D Singh


The current paper reviews currently used and proposed nomenclature for neurocognitive disorders associated with HIV, and proposes a unitary system as well as recommends an operational approach to screening/diagnosing severe forms of HIV associated neurocognitive disorder (HAND) in order to identify individuals who might benefit from antiretrovirals (ARVs). The terms HIV dementia complex, HIV-associated dementia (HAD) and HIV encephalopathy (HIE) are being replaced by more refined definitions for the spectrum HIV associated neurocognitive disorder (HANDs). The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) will introduce a further term- major neurocognitive disorder. The nosology can become very confusing as the terms are not exactly equivalent. Clinicians need guidance on how to interpret new terms to implement current legislation and treatment guidelines that use the old term HIE. As a WHO stage 4 disease, patients with HIE are eligible for ARVs irrespective of their CD4 count. However, there are no locally available operational criteria how to diagnose HIV encephalopathy (HIE). The updated terminology is preferred because it requires assessing cognition objectively with neuropsychological tests. It is recommended that the International HIV Dementia Scale be used to screen patients and to thereafter confirm diagnosis with further neuropsychological tests e.g. the trail making and digit span tests.

Key words: HIV; AIDS; HIV-associated dementia (HAD); HIV-associated neurocognitive disorder (HAND)

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 1994-8220