A project of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women's Health

Skip Navigation

Womens Health logo
divider line

AIDS dementia complex (ADC)

AIDS dementia complex, or ADC, is mental decline caused by HIV infection. It is also called HIV-associated dementia. ADC occurs most often in the advanced stages of AIDS. It is not common in people who have taken antiretroviral therapy. AIDS can affect the brain and cause poor memory; short attention span; trouble moving, speaking, or thinking; less alertness; loss of interest in things; depression; loss of bladder and bowel control; and mood swings. Mental problems can make it hard to follow the planned routines for care and make it difficult to protect the person with AIDS from infections. Aggressive AIDS drugs are used to treat ADC. Other drugs are used to treat some of the symptoms of ADC, such as depression. If the person you are caring for has ADC, you can help:

  • Keep important things in the same place all the time. Make this place easy to reach and easy to see.
  • If you need to, remind the person you are caring for where they are and who you are.
  • Put a clock and a calendar where the person you are caring for can see them. Mark off the days on the calendar. Write in what will happen each day.
  • Put up pictures of people who might be in the house with their names on the pictures where the person with AIDS can see them.
  • Speak in short, simple sentences.
  • Remove dangerous objects from reach.
  • Keep the sound from TVs, radios, and other noises down so the person doesn't get confused by unexpected sounds.
  • Talk to a health care worker who deals with people with dementia about how to handle problems.

Return to top

More information on AIDS dementia complex (ADC)

Explore other publications and websites

  • AIDS Dementia Complex (Copyright © Project Inform) - This publication talks about AIDS dementia complex (ADC), including detailed descriptions of the symptoms it causes in its different stages. It describes how HIV is thought to cause ADC and how doctors diagnose and treat ADC and its symptoms.
  • Dementia - This publication talks about how HIV can affect your brain and the neurological disorders associated with HIV.
  • Neurological Complications of AIDS Fact Sheet - This fact sheet talks about how AIDS affects the nervous system, complications that can arise in AIDS patients, and how they are treated.

Content last updated: July 01, 2011.

Return to top