AIDS-Related Brain Diseases

Several infections cause headache in AIDS, the advanced stage of HIV infection, and can be fatal within a week or less.ย  They include Toxoplasmosis, Cryptococcal Meningitis, Lymphoma (a cancer), and others.ย  Diagnosis is made by CT Scan and/or Spinal Tap.

Most people with HIV are taking medicines, and know if their immune system is working well.  If their T-cell (CD4-cell) count is over 200, or if they’ve been on successful HIV treatment for over a year, they don’t need to worry.  If they know they could get AIDS infections, they should seek immediate care for a new headache, maybe even in an ER.

But some people have HIV and don’t know it; sometimes they find out with their first serious AIDS complication.  If they’ve had a negative HIV test in the last 1-2 years, they might still have early HIV now, but it wouldnโ€™t be advanced enough to cause brain disease.  But if their last test was longer ago, or never, and especially if they have risks for HIV, & they have a new headache, we’d test them now.

Risks for HIV include:

  • Men & transgender women who have sex with men
  • Anyone with many sex partners
  • Anyone who’s had an STD
  • Anyone who injects drugs
  • Anyone whose sex partner falls in the above categories

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