Neurological involvement in HIV is often associated with cognitive impairment. Although severe and progressive neurocognitive impairment has become rare in HIV clinics in the era of potent antiretroviral therapy, most patients with HIV worldwide have poor outcomes on formal neurocognitive tests. In this Review, we describe the manifestations of HIV-associated neurocognitive disorder in the era of effective HIV therapy, outline diagnosis and treatment recommendations, and explore the research questions that remain. Although comorbid disorders, such as hepatitis C infection or epilepsy, might cause some impairment, their prevalence is insufficient to explain the frequency with which it is encountered. HIV disease markers, such as viral load and CD4 cell counts, are not strongly associated with ongoing impairment on treatment, whereas cardiovascular disease markers and inflammatory markers are. New cerebrospinal fluid and neuroimaging biomarkers are needed to detect and follow impairment. Ongoing research efforts to optimise HIV therapy within the CNS, and potentially to intervene in downstream mechanisms of neurotoxicity, remain important avenues for future investigation. Ultimately, the full control of virus in the brain is a necessary step in the goal of HIV eradication.