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How HIV Hides in the Brain

HIV-positive people are particularly susceptible to the early onset of dementia.

HIV-positive people are particularly susceptible to the early onset of dementia. Credit: Mehau Kulyk/Science Photo Library

By Lachlan Gray

With the introduction of the latest drugs and treatments, infection with HIV no longer represents a death sentence. However, HIV-positive people are particularly susceptible to the early onset of dementia and several other conditions of ageing, such as cardiovascular disease, frailty, cancers and bone disease. New research has found that when the HIV virus gets into the brain, it infects a key cell type, the astrocyte, leading to its dysfunction. This, in turn, triggers the development of HIV dementia, and at the same time provides HIV with a hideout where it is protected from the immune system and antiviral drugs.

Lachlan Gray is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Burnet Institute and Monash University.

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