Background: The increase in HIV infections in South Africa is alarming. The aim of this prospective 4-year study was to evaluate the rising incidence of HIV-related admissions due to meningitis at the Pretoria Academic Hospital (PAH) adult neurology ward and to investigate the spectrum of meningitis during this time. Patients and Methods: Adults with meningitis presenting at the PAH neurology ward from March 1994 through February 1998 were included. HIV antibody status was determined and patients were assigned to five categories: bacterial, tuberculous, viral and cryptococcal meningitis, as well as an uncertain category. Results: Over the 4-year study period 141 patients with meningitis were seen. Of these, 44 were HIV-positive (31%), with TB meningitis occurring in 16 (36%), cryptococcal meningitis in 22 (50%) and acute bacterial meningitis in three (7%). In the first 2 years of the study, 14% of patients were HIV positive; this figure rose to 44% in the 3rd year, and 57% in the final year. The spectrum of meningitis also changed: bacterial meningitis remained relatively stable at about 25% of the total; TB meningitis almost doubled from 16% in the 1st year to 31% in the last year of the study; viral meningitis initially occurred in 8% of patients and later in 3% of cases, while cryptococcal meningitis showed the most significant increase from 6% of cases in 1994/5 to 31 and 26% respectively in the last 2 years of the study. Conclusion: Over a 4-year period the HIV epidemic was responsible for a marked shift in the spectrum of meningitis towards chronic infections such as TB and cryptococcal meningitis at the PAH.
- Chronic infections