Several infections cause headache in AIDS, the advanced stage of HIV infection, and can be fatal within a week or less. They include Toxoplasmosis, Cryptococcal Meningitis, Lymphoma (a cancer), and others. 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 wouldn’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