Although adults with HIV are at risk of developing cognitive impairments, the literature suggests that nurses and clinicians should be cautious about relying on patients' perceptions of their mental abilities. However, these findings are based on a questionnaire of cognitive complaints that may not lend itself easily to a clinical setting. In this pilot study, the relationship between a single item of selfreported cognitive ability and a global cognitive performance composite based on 7 neuropsychological tests was examined in 50 adults with HIV. Depressive symptomatology predicted lower self-reported cognitive ability; however, lower self-reported cognitive ability was also related to poorer cognitive performance but to a lesser extent. These results suggest that adults with HIV who report their cognitive ability as being poor may be experiencing depression, but they may also be experiencing declines in cognitive performance. These findings also suggest that a single item of self-reported cognitive ability may have some clinical value in detecting problems with global cognitive performance, as well as depression. Interventions for assessing patients and improving mood or cognition can be considered by nursing professionals treating individuals with HIV who report their cognitive ability as poor. Copyright © 2008 American Association of Neuroscience Nurses.