Psychological health problems such as dementia, anxiety and depression get more common as we get older, so it stands to reason that as people with HIV live longer, they may be more likely to experience these problems. However, the physical effects of HIV and some of the medicines used to treat it make these problems more likely among people with HIV.

A condition called HIV-associate neurocognitive disorders (HAND) – caused by the effects of HIV on the brain and central nervous system – is the most common cause of treatable dementia in those infected with HIV.1 Symptoms can include difficulties with concentration, attention and memory, confusion, behavioural changes, and clumsiness or balance problems.2 If you become aware of any of these symptoms, you should talk to your doctor about getting help and support.

Mental health isn’t just about diagnosable conditions. Emotional wellbeing can be affected by isolation, loneliness, distress, concern or worry and is just as important as your physical and mental health. If you start feeling isolated or down, you should talk to your doctor or your support network about getting help or making small changes to your lifestyle. The Health MOT will also help you to find the words to ensure that your overhead tannoy is heard loud and clear.

1. Ances BM, et al. HIV-Associated Neurocognitive Disorders and the Impact of Combination Antiretroviral Therapies. Curr Neurol Neurosci Rep. 2008;8(6):455–461.

2. National Institute of Mental Health. HIV Associated Neurocognitive Disorders. Available at: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/hiv-aids/index.shtml#part_153574 [last accessed April 2021]