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HIV Neurology Center

Most Sophisticated Treatments Available

The HIV/Neurology Center offers comprehensive care for acute and chronic neurological problems in people with HIV infection or AIDS. The center is staffed by physicians who have received specialized training in this field and who are on the faculty at Harvard Medical School. As a patient of our center, you will have access to the most sophisticated treatments available, and be able to participate in current clinical treatment trials. In addition, we will assist you in getting more information about your condition with the help of the Beth Israel Deaconess Learning Center.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the Neurological complications of HIV infection?

Neurological complications of HIV infection consist of damage to the brain, spinal cord and nerves. These organs and cells in your body are responsible for sensations, voluntary movements, coordination, balance, thinking processes and emotions.

Neurological disturbances are frequent in people with HIV Infection or AIDS. They occur in 30-50% of HIV-infected persons and can present as the initial symptom, throughout the course of the disease or in advanced AIDS.

What is the relationship between nervous system problems and HIV disease?

HIV may affect the nervous system directly. It may also act indirectly by weakening the immune system so that infections or tumors of the nervous system develop.

How do I know if I have a problem?

Neurological complications of HIV infection can present in various ways. The most common symptoms include:

  • Forgetfulness, mental slowing
  • Inability to concentrate, apathy
  • Visual or auditory problems
  • Convulsions, seizures
  • Weakness or paralysis
  • Poor coordination, gait instability
  • Numb or burning feet
  • Headache, stiff neck

How are nervous system problems diagnosed?

If you have any of these symptoms, we encourage you to talk with your doctor about whether the HIV/Neurology Center would be appropriate for you. Doctors at the HIV/Neurology Center will perform a detailed neurologic examination that includes testing your sensation, muscle strength, reflexes, coordination, and gait. In addition, we will ask you questions to asses your memory and thinking.

What diagnostic studies might be ordered?

Blood tests are helpful in the diagnosis of a few nervous system problems, but additional information is usually necessary. Specialized radiologic studies, including MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) and CAT (computer assisted tomography) scans, will provide detailed pictures of your brain and spinal cord. We may also perform an EEG (electroencephalogram), which measures electrical activity of the brain and /or an EMG (electromyogram), which measures electrical activity in the muscles and nerves.

What are the treatments for neurological complications of HIV infection?

Doctors at the HIV/ neurology Center will work closely with your primary physician to determine the appropriate treatment for your condition. These might include antibiotics, antiviral medications, and symptomatic treatment for pain, medications for seizures, vitamins, or occupational and physical therapy.

What is PML (Progressive Multifocal Leukoencephalopathy)?

PML is an infectious disease of the brain.  It is caused by reactivation of a common virus that infects and destroys white matter of the brain.  Neurological symptoms caused by this disease vary, as they depend on the location where the virus-caused destruction (lesion).  To learn more about PML, please click here.

Contact Information

HIV/Neurology Center
Confidential Line
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
Boston, MA 02215