Acclaimed AIDS Researcher

Sacktor pioneered research linking HIV/AIDS and dementia.

Published in Hopkins Medicine - Spring/Summer 2021

Neurologist Ned C. Sacktor (faculty, neurology, 1994–2020), whose pioneering research on HIV/AIDS-associated cognitive dysfunction made him an international leader in the field, died November 11, 2020, of pancreatic cancer. He was 57.

Beginning in the early 1990s, Sacktor’s studies of the link between HIV/AIDS and dementia had a profound impact. His research in sub-Saharan Africa represented some of the first AIDS-related neurological studies there. He conducted the first clinical trial of a potentially cognitive-enhancing agent, minocycline, in Uganda. In collaboration with Makerere University, he also performed one of the first comprehensive studies of the clinical characterization of HIV dementia in Kampala, Uganda. In addition, he examined the impact of HIV subtypes on cognitive performance in Uganda.

In the United States, Sacktor played a leading role in the NeuroAIDS research community, establishing groundbreaking clinical research within the large Multicenter AIDS Cohort Study (MACS) established in 1982 and the AIDS Clinical Trials Group established by the NIH in 1987, playing a leadership role in both.

He was instrumental in developing the HIV dementia program at Johns Hopkins in collaboration with Justin C. McArthur, director of the Department of Neurology, and Richard T. Johnson (1931–2015), McArthur’s predecessor. Sacktor’s program became the leader and driver of studies relating to cognitive disorders in HIV/AIDS.

Because of his impact in global neurology, Sacktor served as president of the World Neurology Foundation in 2016.