HIV, Cognition and Women

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Although the incidence of HIV in the United States is higher among men compared to women, the global proportion of women versus men who are infected has been approximately 50% since the late 1990s. Women have been under-represented in neuropsychological studies of HIV. A small number of studies have reported a significantly higher prevalence of neurocognitive impairment among HIV+ women compared to HIV− controls regardless of symptom status and with or without an AIDS diagnosis. Impairment was most evident on psychomotor tasks. The risk of neuropsychological impairment was increased among HIV+ women not on antiretroviral therapy. Age and depressive symptoms also increase neurocognitive risk. New neurocognitive studies of ovarian steroid hormones, PTSD and other psychiatric conditions are critical for addressing potential female-specific aspects of HIV-Associated Neurocognitive Disorder. Such studies will also address questions regarding involvement of the hippocampus and verbal memory, which may be of particular significance among HIV+ women.

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