BACKGROUND. South Africa (SA) has a high prevalence of HIV infection with almost 11% of the population aged >2 years living with HIV. At the Steve Biko Academic Hospital, Pretoria, the Neurology Department has seen a steady increase in HIV-related neurology patients.
OBJECTIVE. To evaluate the mortality data of this unit as it relates to HIV infection.
METHODS. The study was a retrospective analysis of records. Patient mortality statistics for 2006, 2008, 2010 and 2012 were analysed regarding cause of death, sex, age and HIV status.
RESULTS. During 2006, 85 patients died: 33% were HIV-positive, 13% were HIV-negative and 54% had not tested for HIV. By 2010, these figures were 50%, 22% and 28%, respectively, changing little in 2012 (48%, 28% and 24%, respectively). Causes of death in the HIV-positive group were meningitis in 58% - with tuberculous meningitis the most common aetiology - followed by strokes (14%), space-occupying lesions (8%) and status epilepticus (7%). Among HIV-positive patients aged 20 - 30 years, a larger proportion of young women died than men. In the combined untested and HIV-negative group, strokes accounted for the vast majority of deaths.
CONCLUSION. Neurological complications of HIV remain common in SA and contribute significantly to the overall mortality in our tertiary neurology unit, with TB posing a serious threat. A strong corps of clinical neurologists with training in infective neurology is needed urgently in the coming years to care for this growing number of patients.