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Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) viral escape is defined by detectable HIV-RNA in CSF despite undetectable or lower-than-CSF level in plasma of patients receiving combination antiretroviral therapy (cART). This condition may occasionally be associated with neurological problems, consisting of new and progressive cognitive decline and/or focal symptoms and signs, defining the ‘symptomatic CSF escape’. Brain MRI usually shows diffuse white matter hyperintensities that recall the presentation of HIV encephalopathy in the precART era. However, patients develop symptomatic CSF escape with relatively high CD4+ cell counts and suppressed or low systemic virus replication. In addition, the frequent CSF pleocytosis and the pathological demonstration of CD8+ T-cell brain infiltrates in some cases of symptomatic escape indicate that inflammation is an important component in the pathogenesis of this condition. Low nadir CD4+ cells are common, likely reflecting the establishment of a HIV reservoir in the central nervous system (CNS). CSF escape seems to result from reactivation of CNS infection when cART potency is lowered, because of low patient's adherence, drug resistance, or use of drug combinations that are poorly effective in the CNS and cART optimization is key to revert escape and neurological disease in the great majority of cases.