Neurocognitive impairment is a detrimental complication of HIV infection. Here, we characterized the intellectual performance of patients with newly diagnosed HIV infection in southwestern Nigeria. We conducted a prospective study at Owo Federal Medical Center by using the adapted Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale (WAIS). The raw scores were converted to standardized scores (z-scores) and correlated with clinical and laboratory findings. Fifty-eight HIV positive patients were recruited; 72% were in WHO stages 3 and 4. We detected a high rate of intellectual impairment in HIV positive patients and controls (63.8% and 10%, resp.; P < 0.001). HIV positive patients performed worse throughout the subtests of both verbal and performance intelligence quotients. Presence of opportunistic infections was associated with worse performance in the similarities and digit symbol tests and performance and full scale scores. Lower body weight correlated with poor performance in different WAIS subtests. The high rate of advanced disease stage warrants measures aimed at earlier diagnosis and treatment. Assessment of neurocognitive performance at diagnosis may offer the opportunity to improve functioning in daily life and counteract disease progression.