Benefits and risks of stavudine therapy for HIV-associated neurologic complications in Uganda

N. Sacktor, N. Nakasujja, R. L. Skolasky, K. Robertson, S. Musisi, A. Ronald, E. Katabira, D. B. Clifford

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

52 Scopus citations


Background:: The frequency of HIV dementia in a recent study of HIV+ individuals at the Infectious Disease Institute in Kampala, Uganda, was 31%. Coformulated generic drugs, which include stavudine, are the most common regimens to treat HIV infection in Uganda and many other parts of Africa. OBJECTIVE:: To evaluate the benefits and risks of stavudine-based highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) for HIV-associated cognitive impairment and distal sensory neuropathy. The study compared neuropsychological performance changes in HIV+ individuals initiating HAART for 6 months and HIV- individuals receiving no treatment for 6 months. The risk of antiretroviral toxic neuropathy as a result of the initiation of stavudine-based HAART was also examined. METHODS:: At baseline, 102 HIV+ individuals in Uganda received neurologic, neuropsychological, and functional assessments; began HAART; and were followed up for 6 months. Twenty-five HIV- individuals received identical clinical assessments and were followed up for 6 months. RESULTS:: In HIV+ individuals, there was improvement in verbal memory, motor and psychomotor speed, executive thinking, and verbal fluency. After adjusting for differences in sex, HIV+ individuals demonstrated significant improvement in the Color Trails 2 test (p = 0.025) compared with HIV- individuals. Symptoms of neuropathy developed in 38% of previously asymptomatic HIV+ patients after initiation of the stavudine-based HAART. CONCLUSIONS:: After the initiation of highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) including stavudine, HIV+ individuals with cognitive impairment improve significantly as demonstrated by improved performance on a test of executive function. However, peripheral neurotoxicity occurred in 30 patients, presumably because of stavudine-based HAART, suggesting the need for less toxic therapy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)165-170
Number of pages6
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 13 2009


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