Cognitive ageing is premature among a community sample of optimally treated people living with HIV

February 3, 2021

Authors: H L Aung, M Bloch, T Vincent, D Quan, A Jayewardene, Z Liu, T M Gates, B Brew, L Mao, L A Cysique

Journal: HIV Medicine

DOI: 10.1111/hiv.12980

Year Published: 2020


Evidence of premature cognitive ageing amongst people living with HIV (PLHIV) remains controversial due to previous research limitations including underpowered studies, samples with suboptimal antiretroviral access, varying rate of virological control, high rate of AIDS, over-representation of non-community samples, and inclusion of inappropriate controls. The current study addresses these limitations, while also considering mental health and non-HIV comorbidity burden to determine whether PLHIV showed premature cognitive ageing compared with closely comparable HIV-negative controls.


This study enrolled 254 PLHIV [92% on antiretroviral therapy; 84% with HIV RNA < 50 copies/mL; 15% with AIDS) and 72 HIV-negative gay and bisexual men [mean (SD) age = 49 (10.2) years] from a single primary care clinic in Sydney, Australia. Neurocognitive function was evaluated with the Cogstate Computerized Battery (CCB) at baseline and 6 months after. Linear mixed-effects (LME) models examined main and interaction effects of HIV status and chronological age on the CCB demographically uncorrected global neurocognitive z-score (GZS), adjusting for repeated testing, and then adjusting sequentially for HIV disease markers, mental health and comorbidities.


HIV status and age interacted with a lower GZS (β = -0.43, P < 0.05). Higher level of anxiety symptoms (β = -0.11, P < 0.01), historical AIDS (β = -0.12, P < 0.05) and historical HIV brain involvement (β = -0.12, P < 0.05) were associated with lower GZS.


We found a robust medium-sized premature ageing effect on cognition in a community sample with optimal HIV care. Our study supports routine screening of cognitive and mental health among PLHIV aged ≥ 50 years.

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