According to Italian and Swedish researchers, use of antiretroviral therapy may help guard people with HIV from early development of memory loss and other cognitive problems. According to the statistics, there is about 20 percent of people with AIDS, who are affected by severe cognitive problems, known as AIDS dementia complex. Most of them have advanced HIV infection and severe immunosuppression. About 20 percent to 30 percent of all people with AIDS are expected to eventually develop some form of cognitive damage.
In a recent study, researchers compared cognitive test results for 200 people. 80 HIV patients were not suffering any symptoms of the disease, 90 patients were suffering symptoms, and 80 people were HIV negative. They were hoping to determine which risk factors play a role in early development of cognitive problems. The investigators looked at age, sex, education, risk behaviors, HIV stage, lymphocyte count, and antiretroviral therapy. Participants were considered cognitively impaired if they had poor scores on at least two of seven different neuropsychological tests.
Researchers found that addition to the protective effect of antiretroviral therapy, people with higher educational levels were less likely to suffer from cognitive problems. When compared to those exhibiting homosexual/bisexual and heterosexual risk factors, injecting drug users had lesser cognitive problems.
Authors of this study felt that, their findings suggest that homosexual/bisexual and heterosexual persons who survive longer are expected to be the group at highest risk for cognitive impairment. However, the conservatory effect of antiretroviral therapy may balance this increased risk.