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HIV Update: Researchers Report First Case of HIV-Patient Diagnosed with Dementia

Jul 26, 2016 06:08 AM EDT

Researchers from Georgetown University Medical Center will present the first ever case of HIV-patient diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in a poster session at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference 2016 in Toronto on July 27.

The diagnosis was made after a 71-year old male HIV-positive patient underwent a PET scan showing deposition of amyloid in the brain. Previously, medical practitioners believe that HIV patients may not develop Alzheimer's because HIV-associated neurocognitive disorders (HAND) may prevent the formation of amyloid clumps.

However, a paper published in the journal Alzheimer's & Dementia: Diagnosis, Assessment & Disease Monitoring showed that HIV survivors are now possible of developing HAND and Alzheimer's at the same, a new type of mixed dementia.

The discovery may also suggest that some HIV-patient with dementia may be misdiagnosed with HAND due to identical symptoms. This could be a serious matter because HAND and Alzheimer's are treated differently.

 "The medical community assumes that dementia with HIV is caused by HAND. Physicians haven't considered Alzheimer's, so it's possible that a number of older HIV-positive individuals may be misdiagnosed," explained R. Scott Turner, MD, PhD, a neurologists and head of the Memory Disorder Program at Georgetown, in a statement.

Patients with Alzheimer's can be treated with four FDA-approved drugs while HAND patients were prescribed with antiretroviral drugs that have the better chance of penetrating the brain. HAND is expected to develop in 30 to 40 percent of individuals with long-term HIV infections.

According to the HIV Surveillance Report of the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, 53,000 people in the United States that are 65 years old and older are living with HIV in 2013, with 914 reported diagnoses in 2014. Those numbers are expected to double in 10 years, not including those who are not yet diagnosed.

HIV remains to be a global problem with nearly 37 million reported infections around the world in 2014, this include approximately 2 million new cases of HIV infection that year.

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