In people infected with human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1), the accumulation of macrophages in the brain correlates with encephalitis and dementia. We hypothesized that a pattern of surface marker expression in blood monocytes may serve as a marker for central nervous system (CNS) disease. Using the simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV)-rhesus monkey model, we analyzed functionally relevant surface markers on monocytes and macrophages from the blood and brain in animals that did or did not develop SIV encephalitis. At necropsy, multiple markers (CD44v6, CCR2, and CCR5 on blood monocytes and brain microglia and/or macrophages, and CX3CR1 on blood monocytes) allowed us to distinguish animals with encephalitis from those without. Furthermore, the level of expression of CD44v6 on the 2 main populations of blood monocytes--those that express either low or high levels of CD16--was significantly increased in animals with encephalitis. A longitudinal analysis of blood monocyte markers revealed that as early as 28 days after inoculation, CD44v6 staining could distinguish the 2 groups. This provides a potential peripheral biomarker to identify individuals who may develop the HIV-induced CNS disease. Furthermore, given its role in cellular adhesion and as an osteopontin receptor, CD44v6 upregulation on monocytes offers functional clues to the pathogenesis of such complications, and provides a target for preventative and therapeutic measures.