Marking World AIDS Day this month, the AIDS Vancouver group launched its “Undetectable” campaign to highlight “a new way of talking about HIV”. We’ve seen how in recent years, anti-retroviral treatment has made headway in lessening the chance of new infections to spread the disease. That’s good news – and on the front lines of dementia care in British Columbia, we’ve also seen how this new treatment is helping lower incidence of dementia.
What’s the Link Between HIV and Dementia?
While the public is more aware today of the connection between HIV and AIDS and associated symptoms, many people don’t know that the HIV can impair cognitive ability.
The HIV virus attacks the human central nervous system and can get into your brain and spinal cord tissues. Doctors can’t fully detect how this happens, but HIV-associated dementia is a well-recognized condition, adding one more layer of disability to an already-vulnerable population. In the early days of the US’ HIV/AIDS epidemic, roughly half of the people living with HIV/AIDS were experiencing dementia.
The good news? Since antiretroviral therapy has been introduced, we’ve seen a major drop in HIV-associated dementia. A recent medical study in the UK appeared to show that those suffering from HIV who had gotten anti-retroviral treatment had the same rate of dementia as for the general population. In related news, we’re seeing new research into ways of harnessing ‘big data’ to help understand how HIV damages the brain – an essential step on the way to a cure.
We’re glad to see new resources and research devoted to this important cause. In the meantime, we are here to help families and patients who are already experiencing dementia – whatever the cause.